On Saturday, May 29, Perimeter Place will host one of the many walk/run events that tend to crop up in Atlanta this time of year. Like the other events, there will be hundreds of participants who have gathered together to raise awareness and funds for a good cause. There will be tents featuring food, entertainment and fun for all ages. Yet, there will also be something a little different at this particular walk/run. Under a few of those familiar-looking tents, some people’s lives will be saved—on the spot.
“With May being National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to help raise awareness about this preventable disease,” says Marilyn Fry, a melanoma survivor and founder of the SCAN Foundation (Skin Cancer Awareness Network), which will present its fourth annual Save Our Skin 5K Walk/Run this month. SCAN funds melanoma and skin cancer research and awareness programs at Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta. “Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, it has a 96-percent cure rate if detected early. We want to encourage people to get a simple, 5-minute skin check—before it’s too late,” Fry says. Board-certified dermatologists will be on hand throughout the event, offering complimentary skin checks for all participants.
Fry founded SCAN in 2006 as a means to educate the public about skin cancer. An avid beach enthusiast since childhood and a former lifeguard, she spent her youth in the sun, soaking up the rays and working on her tan. Unfortunately, in 1999, that lifestyle caught up with her. After her doctor recommended that she have a biopsy performed on a mole, she learned she had stage 1 malignant melanoma. She had surgery to remove the mole and the surrounding skin area; because it was caught early, the melanoma had not metastasized, giving Fry a clean bill of health. But the experience made a lasting impression, and she decided to dedicate her time and efforts to the prevention of skin cancer. “We just don’t take skin cancer seriously here in the United States,” Fry says. “To date, there are more than 1 million new skin cancer cases diagnosed each year with approximately 10,000 of those people dying. In fact, one person dies of skin cancer every 67 minutes.”
In 2002, Fry began organizing “Skin Cancer Awareness Day” at Delta Air Lines, where she currently works as a flight attendant. Over the last 8 years, the program has screened more than 2,500 people and lead to the discovery of several melanomas and cancerous lesions. The success of the Delta program motivated Fry to establish SCAN in 2006 and expand her endeavors. With the help of the SCAN Foundation committee, including medical board chairman Carl Washington, M.D., of the Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, she has made great strides, starting the annual Save Our Skin Walk/Run, organizing Legislative Skin Cancer Awareness Day at the Georgia State Capitol to offer free skin spot checks to members of the legislature and state employees, and taking on the charge of creating and distributing the black-and-white polka-dot ribbon. The trademarked ribbon and its tagline—“See a Spot, Call Your Doc!”—is actually one of Fry’s most profound accomplishments; her goal is to have it associated with skin cancer awareness in the same way the pink ribbon is so closely linked with breast cancer awareness.
“It is so important to be aware of skin cancer and recognize its signs,” Fry says. “Early detection is key. Skin cancer is the only cancer you can detect yourself. It is preventable—you just have to be aware. And we don’t want people to be afraid of the sun—we just want them to know how to protect themselves and their children.”
4th Annual Save Our Skin 2010 5K Run Walk
8 a.m., Saturday, May 29 at Perimeter Place
To register for the run/walk visit www.scanfoundation.com or at Atlanta running stores on SCAN's Web site
Know The Risk Factors
People with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. Risk factors vary for different types of skin cancer, but some general ones include:
- Lighter natural skin color
- Family history of skin cancer
- Personal history of skin cancer
- Exposure to the sun
- through work and play
- A history of sunburns
- early in life
- Skin that burns, freckles or reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun
- Blue or green eyes
- Blond or red hair
- Certain types and a large number of moles
According to Marilyn Fry, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of your favorite sunscreen isn’t the only attribute you should consider. It’s actually the ingredients that make the biggest difference. Look for sunscreens and sunblocks that contain Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide, which provide the best broad-spectrum protection—like Fry’s favorite, Blue Lizard Australian sunscreen.