This month is Melanoma Awareness Month, which provides an excellent opportunity for foundations such as ours, LiveSunSmart.org, to educate the public about the importance of living “Sun Smart.” We know that melanoma is very curable when caught early, but we want to teach everybody ways to minimize their risk when out in the sun without curtailing the fun! It’s pretty simple, actually, we know that staying in the shade and avoid the peak sun hours when possible isn’t always realistic, so use your sunscreen every day, and reapply it often. Wear hats – with the big, wide brims if possible–wear sunglasses and protective clothing. Get your skin checked regularly, learn the signs of melanoma and most importantly make sure your friends and family do the same!
But, melanoma awareness isn’t just limited to the month of May. We want you to protect yourself year-round by making the proper application of sunscreen a routine part of your day, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. That means whether you are on the ski slopes or the beach, the athletic field or the construction site—if you are spending time outdoors eating, recreating or spectating, sun protection is essential. We are all at risk because skin cancer does not discriminate against color, race, ethnicity or gender.
At Live SunSmart.org, we are passionate about our mission and work diligently throughout the year to educate everyone on the importance of early detection and the prevention of melanoma. The foundation honors my father Ray—an athlete, community leader and friend to many—who tragically lost his battle with melanoma at the age of 53. Ray loved interacting with everybody and the best way to celebrate his life is to create a dialogue about skin cancer prevention that could save others.
Nobody should ever have to suffer from skin cancer the way my father – and consequently all of us – suffered. Just a few simple steps integrated into your daily life can change behaviors that may reduce your risk.
The best way to safeguard your skin is to:
• Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day
• Apply properly and reapply often
• Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses
• Get annual skin cancer screenings
• Tell your family and friends to do the same
At LiveSunSmart.org, we offer a variety of programs to inform the public about easy steps to safeguarding one’s health.
Did you know that UV radiation can damage the eye, affecting surface tissues and internal structures, such as the cornea and lens? Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and, in some cases, can contribute to ocular melanoma. Our Look SunSmart™ program, encourages people to wear sunglasses year-round to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin areas from UV light.
Another program, Team SunSmart™, was designed to promote the health and wellness of student athletes by making the application of sunscreen a normal pre-game routine. After all, athletes often are outside participating in sports during the peak sun exposure hours. Packing sunscreen in an athlete’s equipment bag should be as important as packing cleats, water or a sports drink. A change in a student athlete’s behavior now will ensure a healthier future since anywhere from 23% – 75% of our lifetime UV exposure occurs before the age of 18.
Ski SunSmart™ works with ski resorts, outdoor winter sports pavilions, and skiing and snowboarding organizations to encourage winter sport enthusiasts to make the application and reapplication of sunscreen a normal routine on the slopes. At 8,000 feet above sea level, you are exposed to 40% more UV radiation than you are at sea level.
Another exciting program we have aims to educate non-medical and salon professionals to recognize the signs of melanoma. Pro SunSmart™ trains these professionals to spot signs of change in their regular customers or notice unusual moles in new customers. Whether it’s during a back adjustment, massage, physical therapy session, athletic training, shampoo and styling, or a pedicure, these professionals have the opportunity to visually examine our backs, scalps and bottoms of our feet.
Throughout the year, we offer on-site school and workplace skin screenings with Board-certified dermatologists. This health initiative helps to demystify the screening process and to broaden everybody’s awareness about the necessity of annual skin checks. So far, we have detected dozens of cases of skin cancer, several of which were melanoma.
There are so many positive benefits to spending time outdoors in the sunlight. At LiveSunSmart.org, we want to create awareness about melanoma and all skin cancers, without creating fear by offering you realistic strategies that allow you to live a sun-compatible life. That’s why we call our annual gala, Celebrate Living SunSmart! This year’s event, which helps support the development and implementation of our family of Live SunSmart programs, will be held on May 30th at Maritime Parc in Liberty State Park, NJ. We will be honoring NFL Coach and CBS NFL Today analyst, Bill Cowher for his tremendous efforts to educate the public, especially men, about the risks of melanoma. As a testament to his diligent work, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell will be on hand to present the Apollo Award. Set against the backdrop of the amazing New York City skyline, the gala promises to be a wonderful night of excellent food, entertainment and awareness.
If you would like to learn more about our organization, support our efforts or attend our Celebrate Living SunSmart Gala, please visit www.livesunsmart.org.
Teri Festa is Executive Director and Founder of LiveSunSmart.org, formerly known as the Ray Festa Melanoma Foundation, based in Montclair, NJ.