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Press Release: May is Melanoma Awareness Month

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Health

Being Sun Safe All Year Long Reduces Your Risk of Melanoma

WireService.ca Media Release (05/01/2017) - May is Melanoma Awareness Month and the Melanoma Network of Canada (MNC) is committed to increasing awareness about the importance of prevention and early detection for this deadliest form of skin cancer. In Canada, melanoma is the seventh most commonly diagnosed cancer with over 6,800 cases this year. It is one of the most common cancers in youth ages 15 to 29 and is the most aggressive skin cancer if not caught early. For more information, visit www.melanomanetwork.ca.

Pin a black ribbon on your jacket, purse, backpack, or anywhere noticeable throughout May to show your support for melanoma awareness and prevention. MNC was founded in 2009, by Annette Cyr, a patient and three-time melanoma survivor. MNC provides support services, information and programs for individuals and families whose lives have been changed by melanoma and the award-winning Screen Me™ SUN AWARE™ youth education program. MNC hopes that by giving people the appropriate tools and resources they can better understand how to prevent and detect melanoma.

"When I was originally diagnosed with melanoma in 2001 there was no information or support programs for melanoma. I thought I was the only patient in Canada and faced my diagnosis in isolation," says Annette Cyr, Founder and Chair of the Board of the Melanoma Network of Canada. "In 2007 when my melanoma recurred, I accessed online information from the United States as there was nothing online in Canada. I started the Melanoma Network of Canada and began collecting reliable information to help other Canadians who were facing a melanoma diagnosis."

Many high-profile people have been treated for melanoma including former US President Jimmy Carter, Republican Senator John McCain and Hall of Fame Quarterback and three-time Super Bowl champion for the Dallas Cowboys, Troy Aikman. Legendary Jamaican singer-songwriter, musician Bob Marley, creator of The Rockford Files, The A-Team and 21 Jump Street, Stephen J. Cannell, Crazy Canuck, alpine ski racer Dave Murray and most recently CBC's The Vinyl Café, Stuart McLean lost their battles with melanoma.

"When in doubt, take it out. If you have a mole that is troubling and you are not sure, ask for a biopsy,"

adds Annette. "Over half of initial melanoma is caught by the patient or by a family member. Make sure to check yourself monthly and take a photo on your phone to track any changes in your mole. Melanoma is very treatable if caught early."

It is important to check your skin regularly as melanoma can affect any race, gender or age group. You are at a higher risk of developing melanoma if you have one or more of the following characteristics: prolonged exposure to UV radiation including outdoor sun and artificial UV radiation (tanning beds, sun lamps); severe blistering, sunburns before the age of 20; a family history of melanoma; more than 50 moles on your body; moles with unusual shape or colour; skin that tends to burn; fair or freckled skin; red or blonde hair and blue eyes; or a weakened immune system.

Know the ABCDE's to spot Melanoma:

A = Asymmetry One half of the mole does not match the other.

B = Border The mole edges are ragged, notched, uneven or blurred.

C = Colour A variety of colours including shades of black, brown, tan, sometimes with blue, grey, red pink or white may be present.

D = Diameter The mole has grown in size and is larger than 6mm.

E = Evolution The mole has changed in the past few weeks or months and may be itchy, scaling or bleeding.

"Although the education about the importance of sun protection is good, the behaviour of many has not followed and melanoma is on the rise in Canada," states Dr. Paul Cohen, Dermatologist and Director, Rosedale Dermatology Centre in Toronto. "Because our winters are so long, many people are spending more time outside when the weather gets nicer and not applying sunscreen often enough. Whatever your skin type or skin sensitivity, there is no excuse to not be able to find a sun screen that suits you."

Dr. Cohen offers the following sun safety tips: seek the shade between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. when the sun is strongest; avoid tanning and UV tanning booths; cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses; use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day all year long; apply a thick layer of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating; and make sure to examine your skin head-to-toe every month and let your doctor know if you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious.

"If you have a suspicious mole and are referred by a GP or a walk-in clinic, a punch biopsy or excision to make a diagnosis takes 2 minutes and an incision with stitches takes 10 minutes in a dermatologist's clinic," adds Dr. Cohen. "For patients in remote communities or in areas where they do not have access to a dermatologist, there is an innovative non-invasive skin screening technology for moles called a SIAscope™. This technology allows patients to go to designated clinics, where the mole is scanned and sent through a secure network to a Dermatologist trained on SIAscopy for assessment, if there is cause for concern, a biopsy is then scheduled."

The SIAscope allows for ease of access while allowing for effective triaging. It reduces wait times and lowers health care costs.

Patient Histories

A marathon runner, spinning teacher and mother of 3 kids, 42-year old Windsor resident Anita Dimambro was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 40. Although she was not a sunscreen user, she was not a sun worshipper. For 9 months before her diagnosis, she was not feeling well. She took her daughter for a check up and asked the doctor to check a mole on her back, which was rubbing against her sports bra. The results from the biopsy, showed she had Stage II malignant melanoma.

"I was aware of this mole for over a year. I didn't know what melanoma was and how dangerous it could be," states Anita Dimambro. "I've never once said "Why Me", but I often say if only I would have known more. If we can educate and bring awareness to this form of cancer, I believe we can circumvent later stage diagnosis."

Anita had surgery to remove the melanoma, followed by treatment with high dose interferon, a biological therapy that became part of her weekday regime for 20 sessions. After finishing her treatment, she was supposed to have another 11 months of injections 3 times per week, which she and her doctor ended early after 6 months as she was losing too much weight to continue the treatment.

"Today at 42, I'm dealing with some residual effects of the cancer treatments and therapies," adds Dimambro. "My melanoma diagnosis and treatment taught me to take life one a day at a time."

Gordon Cornwall's journey with malignant melanoma began in 2012 when he noticed a pimple-like lump on his arm. The diagnosis surprised him as he had no cancer risks in his family and was not a sun worshiper. A dermatologist thought the lump was a squamous cell cancer, but after it was removed and biopsied, it turned out to be a much more dangerous skin cancer - melanoma - a nodular lump, which was very rare and aggressive. After much proactive research and meeting with doctors, he found an oncologist in North Vancouver who really understood melanoma and encouraged him to share any material he found.

"It is essential to get involved in your treatment. Search around and be an active participant," says Gordon Cornwall. "You have to trust your oncologist and feel comfortable in saying anything and know that he or she is up to date on all current treatment material."

Gordon's tumours were removed surgically; he had radiation treatment in the summer of 2012, but by April 2013, the melanoma had spread to other areas of his body. His tests confirmed, six spots on his torso a month later. Additional tests led to the discovery of a brain tumour. He underwent brain surgery in Vancouver and, a month later he travelled to Texas to participate in a clinical trial for his first of five infusions of an experimental immunotherapy treatment called MK-3475, which is now available as pembrolizumab (Keytruda). Three days after the first treatment, he could see that one tumour was getting smaller. In November 2013, he was declared disease free. He felt he had won the battle of his life and is currently melanoma free.

Gordon's wife, author Claudia Cornwall, documents their journey in her book Battling Melanoma and shows that aggressive melanoma does not have to be a death sentence. This powerful book is a great resource for melanoma patients and their families and is available at www.amazon.ca.

About Melanoma Network of Canada (MNC):

The Melanoma Network of Canada (MNC) provides support services, information and programs for individuals whose lives have been changed by melanoma. MNC provides the leading national voice for melanoma patients in Canada for better early detection and improved treatment access and works diligently to prevent more Canadians from developing melanoma through public awareness and youth and adult education on sun safety. For more information, please visit www.melanomanetwork.ca. Charitable Registration number: 854913050RR0001

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For additional information or interview requests, please contact:

Peter Ashworth | Ashworth Associates Inc. | 416-603-6005 | peter@ashworthassociates.com

Peggy Sheffield | Peggy Sheffield & Associates Inc. | 416-246-0474 | psheffield@psapr.com

 


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