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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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Apply Sunscreen Avoid UV & Seek Shade Educate Others Events Routinely Check Skin Sun Protection Clothing Wear Sun Protection

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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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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Apply Sunscreen Educate Others Expert Rx Routinely Check Skin Sun Protection Clothing Wear Sun Protection

What History Tells Us About Skin Cancer and African Americans

February is African American History Month. Among much else, it can serve as a fitting reminder about a myth that has persisted for too long: African Americans (and those with darker skin tones) can’t get skin cancer. In fact, among the African American population, melanoma – the most serious kind of skin cancer – is much more deadly than among Caucasians.

You may have heard that naturally dark-skinned people have less chance of getting skin cancer, and that is true.  Darker skin naturally has more melanin, the dark pigment that protects against the sun’s UV rays. But the simple fact is, no one is immune to skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation shares these facts:

  • The overall 5-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 77 percent, versus 91 percent  for Caucasians.
  • 52 percent of non-Hispanic black patients receive an initial diagnosis of advanced stage melanoma, versus 16 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.
  • Melanomas in African Americans (and other nationalities, including Asians, Filipinos and Indonesians) most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment. Up to 75 percent of tumors arise on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common skin cancer among African Americans. It tends to be more aggressive and carry a 20-40 percent risk of metastasis (spreading).
  • Skin cancer comprises one to two percent of all cancers in African Americans.  

Why is this? One reason is that the familiar story about how darker skin has a higher SPF than lighter skin (which it does) has for too long translated into “My dark skin prevents me from getting skin cancer” (which it doesn’t). It’s important to keep skin cancer top of mind; early diagnosis is often critical in successfully treating melanoma and other skin cancers.

Another big reason, according to Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield III, is within the medical community. Crutchfield is a board-certified dermatologist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with specialized experience treating ethic skin. He says that the relatively higher incidences of skin cancers among Caucasians – and therefore the related training for physicians – makes it more difficult for professionals to diagnose skin cancer among African Americans and other ethnic groups. The lesions, moles and other symptoms that commonly help with a skin cancer diagnosis do not always appear as readily on someone with darker skin.

Skin cancer in African Americans is also more apt to develop in harder-to-find areas such as under fingernails or toenails.

So education is one of our most effective tools to combat skin cancer. As African American History Month continues, keep in mind how you can avoid skin cancer.

Be SunAWARE and be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Routinely Check Skin Wellness Warriors

A Love Story From the Road to Healthy Skin Tour

On its sixth year, the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour continues to travel across the country providing free skin checks to the public. This mobile tour kicks off in the New York City area in May for Skin Cancer Awareness Month and concludes end of August on the West Coast.  Since the tours inception, volunteer dermatologist have performed over 16,000 skin checks, detected nearly 7,000 suspected cancers and precancers and 295 possible melanomas. Tour Event Managers Christie Farhat and Chris Alvarez have traveled with the Tour for five years and four years respectively.  Together, they are making a difference in the fight against skin cancer.

In 2009, Christie was in Miami for a screening event and was having difficulty finding parking for the Tour RV. A gentleman, who was a hotel manager where she was staying, stepped forward to help her out. It was Chris and they’ve been together ever since! Chris joined the Tour team the next season and the two of them have been making a difference together around the country year after year.

This year, Christie and Chris wore Coolibar UPF 50+ clothing for their nation-wide tour. Having to set up each of the 50 events around the country themselves, durability is important. Comfort is also a priority since they drive long distances often. “Christie and Chris like Coolibar fabrics, find they wash well and are very easy to wear,” said Whitney Potter, Director of Special Projects at the SCF. Christie’s favorite item is the lightweight Water Jacket and Chris loves the Plaid Shirts! “They’ve both received a lot of compliments on their attire — mainly from the volunteer dermatologists who recognize the brand and appreciate its protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays,” said Potter. In the spirit of skin cancer prevention, “covering up” with Coolibar is key for Christie and Chris since they spend a lot of time outside in the summer sun during the Tour season.

For more information on the Road to Healthy Skin Tour, visit www.SkinCancer.org/Tour

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Routinely Check Skin SunAWARE

A Valentine’s Day Gift That Shows You Care

If you share a close bond with your significant other, you may want to consider giving them a skin exam this Valentine’s Day and asking them to do the same for you.

Melanoma and non-melanomas can be tricky to spot on one’s own skin, especially on the scalp and back. For men in particular, one third of melanomas are found on the back. Men are also much less likely to examine their own skin, and studies have shown that when skin cancer is found at an early stage, it is most often detected by a spouse or partner. Studies have also shown that couples who check one another for skin cancer tend to do so more thoroughly than people who perform skin self-exams alone.

If you find a suspicious spot on your spouse, urge them to see a dermatologist right away for proper diagnosis. Melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the three most common types of skin cancer, are treatable when detected early. So help ensure you and your valentine are around for many Valentine’s Days to come.

Skin Cancer Warning Signs from the Skin Cancer Foundation

– A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.

– A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that: changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, is irregular in outline, is bigger than 6mm or 1/4”, the size of a pencil eraser, appears after age 21

– A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed.

– An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.

Look for any of the warning signs when you perform a self-exam. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately.

To find out more about how to spot a skin cancer and for information on self-exams, visit www.skincancer.org/Self-Examination/.

Reference: The Skin Cancer Foundation. 

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Routinely Check Skin What's Hot

Are skin cancer apps harmful?

Earlier this month we discussed the growing role technology plays in the fight against skin cancer. In fact, we’ve created a pin board, highlighting some of our favorite apps.

Now, in light of a recent study published by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, there is a growing concern for the accuracy of the apps that are meant to detect skin cancer. Four smartphone apps were evaluated on their ability to determine whether moles have morphed into cancerous melanomas. The results ranged from 98.1% accuracy to only 6.8%. If consumers are relying on their smart phone alone to diagnose their health issues, this inaccuracy poses a big problem.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Health-app makers include disclaimers warning patients that they don’t mean to diagnose anything. ‘We’re not saying this replaces a practitioner,’ said Avi Lasarow, co-founder of the Mole Detective app, which uses algorithms to gauge mole risk but plans to add a physician-referral feature. ‘We’re saying, this is a way you can look to determine whether you might have a problem,’ he said.”

Most consumer health apps haven’t yet been required to demonstrate their safety and efficacy through the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA said in a statement that the UPMC study results “reinforce the importance of consumers talking with a health care professional before making any medical decisions” because of the seriousness of melanoma, and that addressing mobile apps is a top priority at the agency.

What do you think, are skin cancer detecting apps helpful or harmful?

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Coolibar Athletes Routinely Check Skin Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Kristie Talks Melanoma Prevention

This is a special blog post from Coolibar Athlete Kristie Cranford and her words-to-the-wise regarding Melanoma and how you can protect yourself. She speaks from personal experience.

Melanoma-n. 1.  –mas also –mata: a usu. malignant tumor containing dark pigment. 2. Deadly Skin Cancer. The one that won’t leave me alone.

When you get up in the morning, you get dressed, right? Shirt, pants, shoes?  You wouldn’t leave the house naked, would you? But sadly many do. Many leave the house without sunscreen. Sunscreen should be an essential part of your wardrobe.

I am a multiple melanoma (skin cancer) survivor. You never think you will ever hear the words “You have cancer” once in your life, let alone time, after time, after time, like I have. My first and most advanced was discovered during a routine annual exam. It was in the center of my back. I had no way to knowing it was there. Undetected, it would have killed me, I was only 27. I had an area the size of a small nerf football removed from my back because of a mole the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma  is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Here are some statistics:

  • In 2012 more than 116,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease
  • By 2012, it is estimated that one in 50 people will be diagnosed with melanoma
  • One person dies nearly EVERY HOUR from melanoma
  • Melanoma affects people of every age and every race
  • The incidence rate for children 18 and under INCREASED by 84% from 1975 to 2005

Many cases of skin cancer can be prevented and detected early.  Here are the ABCDEs of melanoma:

Asymmetry:  One half of the mole does not match the other half

Border:  The borders of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or a notch

Color:  The color of the mole is not the same throughout. There may be brown, black, red, blue, or white.

Diameter:  The mole is larger than 6 millimeters (roughly ¼”, roughly the size of a pencil eraser)

Evolution:  The mole has been growing or changed its shape and color.

Protect yourself anytime when outdoors, rain or shine. Don’t just avoid peak sun exposure hours between 10am and 4pm. Water, Sand and Snow reflect the sun’s rays. Wear sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher, remember to reapply. My favorite is Raw Elements USA. The Eco Stick can be easily applied under water and over sweat. Smaller than an energy gel, it’s easy to carry.  Look for sun protective clothing like Coolibar. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ocular melanoma. AVOID TANNING BEDS.  Apply sunscreen before placing your hands under the UV rays at the nail salon (bet you NEVER thought about that). Visit a trained dermatologist annually for a complete, head-to-toe exam.

I used to be bitter and angry with Melanoma. I was angry that it was determined to kill me. Then I realized. It saved me. I took back my health. Over time I started eating right, running, and having routine exams and screenings. I credit Melanoma for saving my life. Without it, I would not have detected my breast and cervical cancers in the early stages. I am living breathing proof that early detection is the key to survival.

As athletes we train and compete outdoors. We take precautions to train smart and eat right to prevent illness and injury. Please, don’t forget your skin.

Information, statistics, and ABCDE’s obtained via www.OutruntheSun.org

Visit Kristie’s Blog Here: http://coachkristie.com/2012/07/03/melanoma/

Read Kristie’s full cancer stroy here: http://www.prsfit.com/blog/cancerversary-n-1-_____-2-the-anniversary-of-my-first-cancer-diagnosis/

Visit Coolibar for sunscreen and sun protective clothing: www.coolibar.com

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Expert Rx Routinely Check Skin Videos

Free Skin Checks on Melanoma Monday + Tanning Mom Skit

Is your FREE SKIN CHECK scheduled? Today, the first Monday of May, is Melanoma Monday and dermatology offices across the country are offering free skin checks as a reminder to get your annual exam. A yearly skin check promotes good health and skin cancer prevention, today and all year long.

It is currently estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. When caught early skin cancer is highly treatable, and is often preventable.  Because the signs of skin cancer are visible on the surface, you just need to call your doctor when you see something unusual, growing, or changing on your skin.

You can search the website of the American Academy of Dermatology and their SPOT initiative to find a free screening near you.

Exposure to ultraviolet light is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.  If you could reduce your risk of skin cancer by just seeking shade, wearing sun protective clothing and sunscreen, and avoiding tanning beds, wouldn’t you?

Ask your loved ones to commit to keeping their skin safe and getting a skin check.

Now, if we could just convince Tanning Mom that her bronzed skin is not good for her.  Watch the Tanning Mom skit from Saturday Night Live.

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Expert Rx Routinely Check Skin SunAWARE Videos

The Importance of SKIN CHECKS (Video)

Hi, this is Dr. Davis for Coolibar Sun Protective Clothing.

As a dermatologist, I wanted to outline why it is important to get SKIN CHECKS. The advice varies per individual. It really depends on what kind of skin you have. If you are exceptionally fair vs. exceptionally dark there aren’t straight across the board recommendations for what you need. However, at least once in your life, preferably not too far past your 20’s get a good Full Body Skin Check so at least we can map out areas that are potentially warranting a little closer observation versus things we know will never be trouble. 

For people who’ve had skin cancer we say once a year for sure, timed with your general physical. For people who’ve never had a skin cancer, maybe once every couple of years or as something crops up. If you have something that is not healing or bleeding or changing color or growing or something that generally gets your attention even if it just itches. Bring that to our attention or at least bring it to the attention of your primary care doctor so that they can help determine if you need a dermatologist to see that (spot). Skin cancer can look so different in different people and even the same skin cancer looks different and it takes a dermatologist sometimes to really be able to tell you if that lesion is of concern or not. 

The guidelines are the ABCD’s of Melanoma. We’ve all heard of those. So if something is asymmetric, or the boarder is irregular, or the color is of concern to you, an espresso brown, or the diameter is simply growing. And certainly if it were bleeding or itching or otherwise bothering you come and have us give it a check. 

If those things are not happening schedule that baseline exam so we can take one good look over and then we can plan our skin care from there. 

Be skin safe, be SunAWARE! 

Disclaimer: The information provided by Coolibar and its contributors is general skin care information and should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem.

Skin Check
ABCD's of Melanoma
 
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