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After 25 Years with Lupus, Still Going Strong

Jan Jundt - Coolibar 5K Lupus Walk

Can there be any disease as grueling and, often, mysterious as lupus?

Certainly not for Jan Jundt, 2014 ambassador for Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, who was diagnosed in 1989. “I thought at the time that it was arthritis,” Jan says. “I was having trouble getting my hands open, and walking stairs. I was really afraid it was arthritis – my family has a long history of arthritis.”

Back then it was very common even for doctors to diagnose lupus as something else, she says, and not just in her home town of Bismarck, North Dakota. “For years lupus was misdiagnosed completely,” says Jan, on the eve of the foundation’s 17th annual Lupus Walk for Hope and 5K Trail Run – Twin Cities.

The Onset

Jan Jundt Coolibar Lupus 5K
Jan Jundt

Jan is married; her husband Dave recently retired from the North Dakota National Guard. Last spring the couple moved to Fargo, ND from Bismarck to be closer to their three grown daughters.

Also: 25 years ago, lupus nearly killed her.

“I thought it was arthritis,” Jan relates. “In a visit to my allergist he said: ‘go see a rheumatologist.’ The look on his face was, ‘you do it now.’” She got an appointment the following week – a miracle in itself. After tests were run, her rheumatologist called to say she had lupus and wanted to visit with her and her husband.  She scheduled a follow-up at the end of the next week.

“And I didn’t make that appointment,” Jan says. “The night before, I crashed. I had complete renal failure. Basically the only things functioning were my heart and my brain. They gave me 24 hours to live.

I don’t remember the next 10 days, and my husband says well, that’s a blessing. You don’t want to know.”

Another time, much more recently, she had another scare. “I had come down with pneumonia. I just thought it was my allergies, and my asthma. We were driving to Minneapolis and I collapsed. That’s the lupus; if you have a weakness in one spot, it just goes for it.”

What’s most striking about this is her positive, enthusiastic tone, even when the subject turns dark. How can you ensure that these frightening episodes do not happen? “You can’t,” she says.

What is Lupus?

If anything about lupus can be simple, here’s the simplest explanation – lupus causes the immune system to malfunction. It mistakenly starts creating auto-antibodies that normally guard the body against bacteria and viruses. Instead, they attack and destroy healthy tissue. This can result in a very wide range of symptoms – pain at the joints, fever, fatigue, headaches and sensitivity to the sun among them.

Lupus Walk for Hope, Plymouth, MN
Lupus Walk for Hope, Plymouth, MN

Like most other people, Jan knew none of this. Following her first harrowing episode, she started researching the disease.

“I could not get any information about lupus,” she says. “Every place I called, I was finding dead ends.”

The one certainty: there were lots of others suffering from lupus, and they likely had no place to go either.

The Support Group

Jan and her husband started a lupus support group 24 years ago in Bismarck, ND. She found a catalyst for it in the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, which provided the help needed to start the support group.

The group meets the second Thursday of every month. There are about 15 people in the group, Jan says, with a core of about a half dozen. The group first met at night, but switched to mid-days after fatigue became a problem. There are also frequent transportation issues in a community with lots of rural areas; “the community has been very good to us,” she says. “They help whenever they can.”

Team Coolibar at Lupus Walk
Part of Team Coolibar, Sept. 13

Still, the resource has become irreplaceable.  “I have learned the most from those who have lupus,” says Jan. “People come for different reasons. “Some people come when they’re not feeling good, and need some support. Others come when they are feeling good, and just want to be around people.”

Going Strong

Since her move to Fargo, North Dakota last May, Jan can no longer attend the group she started. But it’s still going strong. On Saturday, September 13, she walked along with Coolibar team members as the official ambassador for Lupus Foundation of Minnesota in the  Lupus Walk for Hope and 5K Trail Run – Twin Cities.

“Our goal is to help one person,” she says. “If we can do that, we’ve done our job.”

For information on Coolibar sun protective clothing, visit our site!

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July is UV Safety Month!

July - UV Safety Month

It seems there is a month for everything, but this one comes directly from the US Department of Health and Human Services: it’s UV Safety Month!

This makes sense. July is one of the hottest months in the US, and it’s also right in the middle of prime vacation time. As we know, UV rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer, which is the nation’s most common type of cancer. And that’s not to mention the painful sunburns, dry skin and wrinkles that UV rays can cause.

Coolibar supports the efforts of the United States HHS department and the Federal Occupational Health agency to raise awareness about skin cancer and the dangers of UV rays. They include encouraging families to adopt good sun safety habits together, to include wearing sunscreen; we would add don’t forget your UPF 50+ sun protective clothing!

Watch for posts throughout July about UV safety for your skin and even for your eyes!

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

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Staying Positive, Staying Aggressive

Tim Fater - Coolibar

Coolibar wraps up our official Melanoma Survivor Series with Tim Fater, a Rhode Island native whose sense of adventure has never wavered (we suspect it’s actually gotten stronger) following his diagnosis and treatment. Melanoma Month is almost over, but we’ll share additional stories throughout the year. Tell us yours!

Tim Fater noticed the first sign of melanoma in December of 2003. It wasn’t ominous; just an unusual freckle on his right forearm. Tim was 19 then, a junior at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He was also preparing for a semester abroad in Australia.

His mother, a nurse, urged him to get the freckle checked out before the trip. A biopsy was performed and a follow-up phone call told him the results were benign.

“I went to Australia,” Tim says now, “and burned for six months.”

The Adventure Begins

Following his graduation in 2005, Tim took off on another adventure. “I was doing the classic backpack trip across Europe,” he says. “While sitting on the train, I noticed the hints of a subtle re-growth emerging from the scar on my forearm where that initial excision had taken place. When I got back to the States, I immediately scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist to have the growth examined.”

Tim noticed that more doctors were involved this time, and that they were talking a lot more than usual. “I could tell by the way this was being treated that thiTim Fater - Melanoma Foundation New Englands was something serious, although no one wanted to admit it until we knew for certain,” Tim says. Finally the news came back: malignant melanoma. In fact, it had been all along.

Then it was a whirlwind: shock, fear, confusion. “It’s just really hard,” Tim says. “Especially for your parents, to see the fear on their faces.”

Looking back, Tim believes the disease was pretty certainly enabled by sun exposure during his childhood in Newport, Rhode Island; he was “always outside…whether it was sailing, surfing, golfing or working at an outdoor bar on the beach.”

This annual summer routine rarely included sunscreen, or anyone advising sun safety.

He and his family immediately transferred from Newport to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. “I remember one of my first meetings with the dermatologist very clearly,” Tim says. “The dermatologist that day informed me that a patient in my situation, with the recurrence, depth of the disease and the amount of time that had elapsed, had a five- year survival rate of 50 percent.” This was consistent with a Stage IIIB melanoma diagnosis.

The resulting surgery and skin grafting claimed most of Tim’s right forearm, along with the lymph nodes in his right armpit. This was followed by interferon treatments – an initial five weeks of intravenous deliveries and plenty of cold-sweat discomfort – “they call it shake and bake,” Tim says – followed by 11 months of self-administered injections.

Aggressive, Yet Positive

Here is what else Tim remembers: “I committed myself to a positive outlook; I taught myself to disregard such negative news which I knew could be lurking around the corner at any time. At that point everything was one day at a time.”

In considering this battle, though, one shouldn’t confuse being positive with being passive. Tim says that from the start he had decided to be aggressive in treating the disease; at such a young age, he was determined to navigate what is always a significant disturbance in one’s life and live as close to normal as possible.

That has included educating himself, as well as a great deal of educating others about melanoma. People share the initial whirlwind: what is it? Where did it come from? When people ask how he “got” melanoma, Tim says he tells them: it is one-third sun; one-third genes; and one-third “nobody really knows.”

Still, he says, “this might be the most frustrating part of the whole experience – the fact that skin cancer is, for the most part, very preventable.”

Today Tim Fater is a CPA and works as a Senior Staff Accountant at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is married; he is an avid skier and a photographer. He is active in several melanoma-related causes. He has also spoken about melanoma at schools throughout New England.

Tim has remained aggressive through all of the doctor’s appointments, skin checks, scans and follow-ups that come with a melanoma diagnosis. There has been no sign of the disease since the fall of 2005.

He’s also remained positive.

“People get caught up with all the little things, and now after fighting melanoma you have more to fall back on,” Tim says. “You know: don’t worry about the small stuff.”

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Today is Don’t Fry Day!

Dont Fry Day - National Council on Skin Care Prevention

Just before the outdoor summer festivities begin in earnest, a reminder: the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated today as Don’t Fry Day.  This annual, national campaign takes place every year on the Friday before Memorial Day to help people keep sun safety in mind.

Here are some of the ways the council recommends to keep yourself and your family healthy for the summer and for a lifetime.

 

  • Do not burn or tan
  • Seek shade
  • Wear sun protective clothing
  • Generously apply sunscreen
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand
  • Get vitamin D safely

The council also takes a page from Australia’s effort to prevent skin cancer and reminds you to Slip on a shirt, Slop on a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a wide-brimmed hat and Wrap on sunglasses whenever you’re outdoors.

It’s also important to visit your dermatologist at least once a year, and watch for new or changing moles and skin growths.

Enjoy your summer – and stay sun safe!

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Monopoly Man: A Survivor Lives On

Jerry Dalton - Cooibar Melanoma Survivor Series

Note: Throughout May, Coolibar highlights melanoma survivors to call awareness to the dangers of melanoma. This week: the terrifying, ongoing journey of Jerry Dalton.

We thought that we wouldn’t get to meet Jerry Dalton, the certified rescue diver. Or Dalton the outdoorsman, the avid fisherman, or the deceptively tough jokester who worked for the maximum-security George Beto Unit in the Texas prison system, the guy who “could always handle what was going on.”

But really, we did. We met Jerry Dalton: survivor.

And this tough jokester known as Monopoly Man (so named by prison inmates when his mustache grew back white and bushy like the character on the Parker Brothers game) is still very much alive.

In an early communication about his schedule he informed us that “I will be fishing. Or swimming, depends on my balance that day.” That turned out to be a reference to what can happen when you combine the effects of long-term melanoma treatment with the effects of standing in a small, tippy boat.

Nerve damage prevents Jerry from lifting his left arm above his head; “fortunately, I’m right handed,” he says. “It’s just not so fortunate when you fall.” He also reports that he is numb from his face all the way down into his chest. “So…just another thing. It’s a perfect place to get shot I guess.”

A Harrowing Journey

Dalton’s battle with melanoma began in September 1999, shortly after his doctor had removed a mole from his left ear. Jerry was driving to Laredo, Texas with Mary, a medical technologist who would soon be his wife (and who plays no small part in this story; she is still by his side today). “I hit my ear with my finger,” Jerry says. “And it bled and bled and it wouldn’t stop. My wife suggested I switch doctors.”Jerry and Mary Dalton 1

Day surgery seemed to correct the problem – “you couldn’t even tell (anything had happened) when it healed,” Jerry says – until the biopsy results returned.

“It came back melanoma,” said Dalton.

A doctor in Amarillo did not hesitate to refer Jerry to Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. There was further surgery there. This time, “they had cut from the top of my ear all the way to the bottom of my throat,” Jerry says, “and (they) removed 40 lymph nodes.”

The cancer appeared in three.

“I was scared,” Jerry says. “But I didn’t really understand it at that time.”

Then came the first of what would be 10 years of PET (positron emission tomography) scans, which create images to show the possible spread of cancer cells –  “At that point it was like ‘why aren’t I glowing now?’” says Jerry – and one year of grueling interferon treatments.

He remembers places, and events. His first transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke. A second, more severe TIA in Amarillo, and the doctors recommending he stop the treatments (“I REFUSED!” Jerry says). The day, during his first three-month PET scan, that doctors discovered an aortic aneurysm.

“I thought: oh, brother,” says Jerry. “I beat cancer, and now I’m gonna die of an aneurysm.” Open heart surgery in 2011, during which he received a mechanical heart valve “and a warranty card to boot.”

There were years of moving around and dealing with dwindling finances. Jerry went on disability in 2007; the couple lived in Clinton, Missouri and Palestine, Texas. Jerry and Mary bought several rental properties, selling all but two before the housing crunch. Mary moved to Lufkin and lived in a travel trailer for a while before they purchased their current home there (which “needs help…more than I do,” Jerry says).

This is an important part of the story: during this long period, Jerry was often stuck indoors. Sometimes, due to either the medical event or the treatment, he was unable to eat or talk. The outdoorsman was now wondering about the most basic activities.

“Who’s gonna mow the lawn?” Jerry remembers asking himself. “If I couldn’t do that, I’d have gone nuts.”

Surviving – and Living, Too

This is Jerry Dalton today: he speaks in a husky tone (one vocal cord is paralyzed). His vision is impaired from the strokes. He has a mechanicalJerry Dalton 2 heart valve. He used to weigh 240 pounds; now it’s more like 175. He’s accident-prone; the other day a piece of 2×6 lumber “fell out of my hand,” he says. “Now I have half a black eye…even my doctors look forward to seeing new bruises.”

Jerry Dalton is also cancer-free, and has been since 2011. “The best time was when they said, ‘you don’t need any more treatments. You are free to go,’” says Jerry.

What is most amazing is that he tells this story with a lightness of spirit that lets you know you’re speaking with Jerry the melanoma survivor and Jerry the adventurous rescue diver all at once.

“The biggest challenge for me was just doing the things that I want to do,” he says. “I’m still able to drive and do things like that. But it was all so rough on my body that anything strenuous, especially climbing stairs, has gotten crazy. And the hardest part was dealing with all that.”

Talking helps. Jerry has written a book, as yet unpublished, about his experiences. He reaches out to anyone who will listen about the dangers of melanoma and ways he’s discovered to effectively deal with a diagnosis.

For him, that has been a long-term effort to strike a balance. The former highly active life in and around the water must blend into his more recent existence, which for quite a while has included being afraid to step outside.

“I was so worried at the time to go out in the sun…we had to do something,” Jerry says. “After going through all this stuff with melanoma, and me not being able to go outside, I was scared to death. One of our first things was researching (protective) clothing.”

This was several years ago now, but the clothing remains – Jerry is never without a full-featured Coolibar hat, such as the Ultra Sport Hat, and a Coolibar UPF 50+ shirt. But the fear is subsiding. Jerry credits Coolibar clothing with providing a new freedom, the ability to live and play outside again without worrying about the sun’s UV rays and a recurrence of melanoma.

Mary DaltonA word about Mary: “There is no way I could have done all this without her,” Jerry says. In his mind he goes back in time to a car ride in 1999, and the diagnosis that immediately followed, and all that lay ahead.

“I said, “well, I don’t expect you to deal with this; I’ll just go back to my family,’” Jerry says. “And she said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

In late April, Jerry participated in the Sealy Outdoors Big Bass Splash at Sam Rayburn Lake in the couple’s newly purchased (actually it’s 37 years old, and as yet has no sun canopy) bass boat. That was his first venture out into the sun and water in many, many years.

This is Jerry Dalton, true to form: “I fished Friday am, it was so rough & full of boats that made mine look like a baby boat. I fell Thursday evening while trying to sit on the upper seat. This hurt so much, that I did it again Friday. I was out-fished this year. (But) it won’t happen again!”

 

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Diagnosed at 25, Building a New Life in the Sun

Renee Burch Coolibar Melanoma Survivor

By Renee Burch

Note: Each May, Coolibar highlights melanoma survivors to call awareness to the dangers of melanoma. Here, Renee tells her story.

I used to think skin cancer was something that happened after decades of excessive tanning (not to young, otherwise healthy 25-year-olds) or to those living in sun-laden states (not in places like the perpetually-rainy Northwest).

Unfortunately, in March of 2013 I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on my left thigh. And I quickly learned that, like most other young adults, what I thought I knew about the dangers of the sun and skin cancer was way off.

About Melanoma

Unlike other types of cancer, a la pink ribbons and saving the ta-tas, most people know very little about skin cancer. And they seem to know the least about the most deadly type of skin cancer: melanoma. Even more concerning is the fact that melanoma is the second most common cancer in young adults – and the number of yearly diagnoses is increasing, particularly in young women.

Part of what makes melanoma so deadly (and different from other types of skin cancer) is that it can quickly spread, which is why yearly screenings for every person, young and old, are necessary for prevention and early diagnosis.Renee Burch - Coolibar

The Diagnosis

Let me tell you, it has not been easy – my life was turned upside down the day I found out I had malignant melanoma at the age of 25.

I remember being very confused. I was unsure what it really meant. I didn’t realize right away that having melanoma was going to be the basis for rebuilding my routines – from hiking, athletic events and boating, to walking the dog, looking forward to traveling and starting a family. And, it took me a while to figure out how I was going to continue to do all these things while being “safe” in the sun.

For a while I tried to justify why I got the disease and other people I knew who were my age did not. “Back in the day” I always kept a healthy tan (turns out, it wasn’t healthy after all!), but I didn’t burn often, so I figured I was lucky to tan easily, and didn’t worry much about skin damage.

I shelled out extra money for the tanning beds I was told were the best “because they didn’t have the bad UV,” or because artificial tanning was beneficial to increasing vitamin D absorption.

My parents vaguely warned me about the dangers of overexposure to the sun, but never had any type of skin cancer. So, I lived life under the veil of belief that skin cancer wouldn’t affect me. My uncle had Stage IV skin cancer more than 20 years ago. I figured if he had it, removed it and has never had a reoccurrence, that’s how it worked: get skin cancer, get it removed, and move on.

I spent many months feverishly researching online, reading books, talking to other survivors, and testing a myriad of sunscreens (a trial-and-error that often left me covered in a ghostly white sheen). I completely switched my skin products, certain foods and supplements — everything in my daily life was impacted by melanoma in one way or another.

Renee Burch - Coolibar Melanoma Survivor

I found it difficult to decipher how to lead a normal life versus how to lead a normal life with melanoma. I struggled with the fact that the damage I had previously done was irrevocable. Right now, I have a one in 10 risk of developing malignant melanoma again. If I don’t take care of myself I could be a one in five, or a one in three. But the best I’ll be is a one in 10 risk.

And, I could not possibly spend life holed up indoors, or wearing thick and bulky, dark-colored, long-sleeve clothing on sunny summer days.

After months of angst, I realized I had to stop worrying about tomorrow’s challenges, and take charge. I was only 25. I want to travel, I want to have kids one day, and it was unrealistic that this disease was going to stop me from getting outside and enjoying day-to-day activities. I was determined: melanoma would not control my life. I was going to control it.

A New Life in the Sun

Thankfully, after recently celebrating my one-year melanoma free anniversary (a really big accomplishment for me!), I find myself achieving peace of mind with my diagnosis. I am continuously learning how to navigate life in the sun, without hampering my previously active and outdoors lifestyle.

I have vowed never to purposely seek out a tan – whether in the summer sun or in a tanning salon bed – and I am an advocate to my family and friends about practicing “safe sun”. Perhaps most importantly, I seek shade whenever possible and limit my sun exposure, particularly during peak hours between 10 am and 4 pm (even in the winter or on overcast days).Renee Burch - wears Coolibar

Without UPF clothing, I know my path to a healthy balance would have been much more difficult. I have sun protective clothing for nearly every scenario. In fact, I have a special dresser drawer designated specifically to it! I have UPF 50+ baseball caps for hiking and biking, sun hats for summer boating and leisure, beach cover-ups, running leggings, swim skirts, and a variety of other pants and shirts for whatever activities life throws my way.

I am a die-hard loyalist to my favorite brands of sunscreen (and let me tell you, physical sunscreen that isn’t pasty white sure is hard to come by). I seek out the shade, but when life happens and sun exposure is unavoidable, I know I am “safe” because of my go-to sunscreens and sun protective gear.

I continue to advocate and show others by my example the ways in which it is possible to practice safe sun: apply SPF of at least 30 and reapply regularly, and fake a glow that is actually healthy. (Believe me, self-tanners have come a long way since the days of streaky orange hand prints!) I wear my scar with pride. It’s a 3-inch scar on my thigh. People see that and say: “Wow that looks serious, what happened?” I tell them: “It’s from melanoma, and that is serious, but this scar could be worse – it could be on a more delicate area of the body, like the face.” That comes as a shock to most people.

If you do nothing else, see your dermatologist once a year. With my diagnosis, I visit mine every three months. But if you notice any changes in your moles, even freckles, get them checked out immediately!

Melanoma is a lifelong battle. One that is not, nor ever will be, easy. But I am fortunate to have caught mine early, to have supportive family and friends, and to have access to an increasing range of sunscreens and sun protective clothing.

I also feel optimistic that one day skin cancer will be as well-known as other cancers. With the support of Coolibar and other skin cancer advocates, I imagine a world where melanoma 5Ks and fundraisers, mobile mole-checks and UPF clothing are commonplace.

 

Renee Burch is a native of Seattle, Washington, and serves as an example of youth overcoming fear. Renee has created clear messages about melanoma, including the misperceptions about its seriousness, the dangers of indoor tanning and the necessity to reach people while they’re young about ways to prevent it. Renee is a proponent of dressing “cute and sporty,” and considers Coolibar a tried-and-true sole resource. She owns swim leggings, sun hats, half-zip shirts, jackets and sun hats, and more.

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It’s Melanoma Monday. How Much Do You Know?

Coolibar - Knowledge for Melanoma Monday

As it does each year, the American Academy of Dermatology has designated the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday®. This chance to promote melanoma awareness and prevention is important to us at Coolibar, because we meet people who live with their melanoma diagnoses every day – and because we meet people who are not familiar with melanoma at all.

Knowing about melanoma can save your life – and sharing what you know can save others! Here is a short list of what we’d like people to understand about melanoma.

Melanoma is the Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer.

Some people understand skin cancer treatment as “you find a mole on your skin, you have it removed, that’s it.”

In fact, the majority of melanoma cases involves wide-excision surgery and a lymph node biopsy to determine if the melanoma has spread to other organs. This may be followed by a regimen of immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments. In all cases, the possibility of recurrence must be carefully monitored. For melanoma survivors, the letters NED (no evidence of disease) become vitally important for many years.

Melanoma Affects Young People Too.Melanoma affects young people - Coolibar

The AAD says that melanoma is the most common cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old, and the second most common for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

It’s Easier Than Ever to Prevent Melanoma.

The single best way to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers is to limit exposure to the sun. But some people think that means giving up their favorite activities. Instead, here are a few simple tips to keep you active and healthy:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and reapply after swimming or strenuous activity.
  • Wear sunscreen every day – up to 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can reach your skin even when it’s cloudy.
  • Seek shade when necessary.
  • Wear sun protective clothing!

Meet Some Amazing Melanoma Survivors.Coolibar Melanoma Survivors May 2014

Each week during Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like you to meet several very courageous people who can tell you about melanoma much better than we can. Their stories are powerful, personal and inspiring (and, unfortunately, similar to many others from people all over the world). But each one will change the way you think about your health and your life.

We’ll introduce the first of these people on Thursday, May 8.

In the meantime, help us spread the word about melanoma!

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Let’s Help Spread the Word About Melanoma!

Coolibar - Melanoma Awareness Prevention Month

May is officially Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Coolibar kicks it off with another boost for awareness, detection and prevention of melanoma – the deadliest of skin cancers. Together, melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell skin cancer make skin cancer the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the U.S.

At the same time, according to the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF), efforts to prevent melanoma/skin cancer are the most underfunded of all cancer types. The foundation says melanoma is the least screened cancer, and melanoma detection is not a training requirement for most medical disciplines.Coolibar - Poolside Sun Hat

What Can We Do?

The MIF says:

  • Seek shade and avoid direct sun during the peak hours of 10-4
  • Cover up with protective clothing and use sunscreen lotion
  • Protect your children and role-model sun safe behavior
  • Examine your skin and that of your loved ones each season for any changes that should be checked by a dermatologist
  • Avoid tanning salons: 15 minutes is equal to a whole day’s exposure at the beach!

What Else Can We Do?

Let’s stay aware! Most people don’t realize how a melanoma diagnosis changes someone’s life. Do you?

Coolibar has some special posts ready for you this month. Each week you can meet a melanoma survivor with a story that will amaze you. If you don’t know much about melanoma, these personal stories will help you learn about it quickly. They should also give you a nice dose of motivation. One thing we’re sure of: by the time you finish hearing from these people, you’ll have a different outlook on life.

Key Dates

Our first featured melanoma survivor will be introduced next week, following Melanoma Monday® on May 5. The American Academy of National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention Dont Fry DayDermatology (AAD) has designated the first Monday of each May to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer and to encourage early detection through self-exams.

Also, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention declares the Friday before Memorial Day as Don’t Fry Day to encourage sun safety awareness. This year, Don’t Fry Day is on Friday, May 23.

Stay up to date with Coolibar activities on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Another great way to stay aware during Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month is to sign up for our weekly emails at Coolibar.com. You’ll get links to all of our stories, plus some extra savings on Coolibar merchandise!

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New Findings: Indoor Tanning is to Skin Cancer as Smoking is to Lung Cancer

If you believe that indoor tanning isn’t dangerous, this finding from a study recently released by JAMA Dermatology might change that.

In likely the first summary of international indoor tanning exposure, researchers determined that the number of diagnosed skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

Can It Be True?   

Taken at face value, the study tells us what smoking is to lung cancer, indoor tanning is to skin cancer. And in fact JAMA Dermatology provides documented evidence gathered in the US, Australia and Northern and Western Europe. Researchers reported:

“Overall, we estimate 419,039 cases of basal and squamous cell carcinoma (NMSC) and 10,888 cases of melanoma each year attributable to indoor tanning. To put this in perspective, approximately 362,941 cases of lung cancer are attributable to smoking each year in these regions.”

However, the same study notes that the general risk for lung cancer is much higher (it assumes 90 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses are attributable to smoking) than for skin cancer (up to 22 percent among indoor tanners). And the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on February 4 that lung, breast and colon cancers are still the most diagnosed worldwide.

But the new figures suggest an even more alarming trend. While smoking is declining worldwide, indoor tanning may actually be increasing. And the Skin Cancer Foundation cites a study by the American Cancer Society which says that each year in the US there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Work To Be Done

Several US states have banned or restricted indoor tanning, and many others are considering it. But, while the WHO considers indoor tanning a group 1 carcinogen, tanning beds in the US are still regulated by the FDA as Class 1 medical devices (the same as bandages and tongue depressors).

Perhaps the best context for the work that still needs to be done comes from the JAMA Dermatology researchers, who said: “Despite the mounting evidence of harms of indoor tanning, data on the scope of this problem, with which to guide public health efforts are missing.”

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Warm Winter Olympics All the Better for Sun Protection

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics - Coolibar

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, if only to imagine what it’s like to slide down an ice-covered slope at 80-plus miles per hour on purpose. If you’ve been watching too, you likely saw something unexpected: temperatures topped 17 degrees C. in Sochi (that would be more than 60 degrees here at Coolibar headquarters near Minneapolis, MN, which hasn’t happened in a while). This is the Winter Olympics?

Especially as we look at these photos from February 12 in the Mail Online, we’re reminded once again how important it is to protect ourselves from the sun year round. In fact, sun protection is much easier to overlook during winter, when exposure tends to be more intermittent. UVA and UVB rays are always a danger for unprotected skin regardless of the temperature or time of year.

One of our heroes, Julia Mancuso – a US Olympic alpine skier who won a bronze medal February 10 in the Ladies Super Combined, which is an official name for “flying down an icy slope at 80 mph”– is already on top of it. Aware of the dangers, especially at higher altitudes with the sun reflecting off of snow, she shares her story and her tips for staying sun safe with the American Academy of Dermatology.

While sitting in the sun sure looks more fun than, say, missing a gate in the Olympic downhill, let’s remember to take care of ourselves. Here are our SunAWARE tips, good all year round:

SunAWARE tips

 

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