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Posted by Arlene ( on April 29, 2000 at 11:08:55:

In Reply to: Arrrgggg! posted by Rebecca T on April 29, 2000 at 10:17:03:

I am a Clusterhead...I'm also the wife of a wonderful man who passed away from a beast of a disease last year, that so many people are unaware of. I hope you don't mind me posting the following here.


My husband Dan passed away last June 5th from Melanoma, after a long suffering battle from Metatastic Melanoma when it went to his lungs, pancreas, intestines and possibly his brain. There are so many people suffering and dying from this vicious disease, and it is so important that people know that Melanoma KILLS.

Saving Our Skins: A Battle Against Melanoma

Melanoma is more than "skin-deep."

Finding a cure for this 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, 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 the volunteers have come up with creative ways to reach people.

Some have agreed to tell their personal stories to news organizations. 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 "The Men in Black" and hand out samples of sunscreen and sun safety tips.

Berkovec said the foundation wants to educate people about what they can do to prevent skin cancer, such as wearing hats, using sunblock and avoiding mid-day sun. In addition, people will be urged to check for new or changing moles and to see a dermatologist for a skin check.

"If they catch it early, they have a very good chance of being cured. If they don't, their chances drop dramatically," he said.

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 researched.

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.

Notable people who have revealed to news sources that they have had melanomas removed include Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman, President Ronald Reagan's daughter Maureen, journalist Sam Donaldson and Sen. John McCain. The great reggae musician Bob Marley died of melanoma.

Among public misconceptions is 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 research.

For more information about recipients of research grants, the foundation board of directors, activities, a list of cancer centers, patient memorials and survivor stories and links to other melanoma sites, please visit the foundation website at

Thank you so much
Arlene Henzler

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