The Melanoma Research Foundation Sponsors Nationwide Events for Melanoma Awareness Month

Saving Our Skins: A Battle Against Melanoma is More Than Skin Deep

Apr 27, 2000, 01:00 ET from Melanoma Research Foundation

    LAKE FOREST, Calif., April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Finding a cure for the most
 deadly form of skin cancer is the force behind Melanoma Awareness Month in
 May.  Americans have a one in 85 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, which
 kills more than 7,000 people each year.
     "In order to raise money for research, people have to be aware there is a
 problem," said James Berkovec, vice chairman of the Melanoma Research
 Foundation (MRF), a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure.
     The foundation is a group of volunteers throughout the United States who
 are melanoma patients or family members of patients.  In this first awareness
 campaign, the three-year-old organization does not have the resources for
 large events, but volunteers have come up with many creative ways to reach
     "Some have agreed to tell their personal stories to news organizations,"
 said Berkovec.  "Others are holding fund-raising dinners, auctions or musical
 events.  Some are taking literature to schools and medical centers.  One
 volunteer is working with students to have some dress up as the movie
 characters from "Men in Black" and hand out samples of sunscreen and sun
 safety tips.
     "Certainly, the best cure is prevention," continued Berkovec.  "Simple
 techniques such as wearing hats, using sunblock and avoiding mid-day sun can
 make a substantial difference in lowering the rate of melanoma incidence in
 the U.S.  The activities the MRF is planning for the month of May will also
 emphasize how individuals can identify early stages of skin cancer by checking
 for new or changing moles, while urging people to see their dermatologist for
 a skin check, regularly.
     "If they catch it early, they have a very good chance of being cured.  If
 they don't, their chances drop dramatically," added Berkovec.
     Studies show that patients with thin melanomas that appear to be
 completely removed have more than 90 percent chance of never having a
 recurrence.  However, once melanoma grows deeper into the skin and
 particularly if it is found to have traveled to the lymph nodes, the chance of
 no recurrence drops to about 50 percent.  In advanced melanoma, the disease
 can show up anywhere -- liver, lungs, brain, bones, etc. -- and patients may
 be treated with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy in an attempt to halt the
 tumor growth.
     Berkovec, a retired engineer, has been in a clinical vaccine trial for
 advanced melanoma.  Vaccines are one of a variety of treatments being
     The MRF was founded in 1996 by melanoma patient Diana Ashby, wife of NASA
 astronaut Jeff Ashby.  Diana died in 1997 at age 34, but the foundation lives
 on, still seeking the cure she fought so hard for.
     Among public misconceptions are that only older people with fair skin get
 melanoma after years of sun abuse.  Although these people are at risk, there
 is a growing number of young people and darker-skinned people being diagnosed.
 One recent study showed a high rate of melanoma among airline pilots.
     Obviously there is a need for more study on genetic and environmental
 factors that may cause melanoma and a growing need for a cure.
     The foundation has chosen to give grants to promising melanoma
 investigators early in their careers to encourage a new generation of
     For more information about how to become involved in local activities in
 the month of May or about recipients of research grants, the foundation, a
 list of cancer centers, patient memorials and survivor stories and links to
 other melanoma sites, please visit the MRF web site at
     This press communication was sponsored by AVAX Technologies, Inc., Kansas
 City, MO.

SOURCE Melanoma Research Foundation