Safe from the Sun Walk this weekend

Tara Powers

The fifth annual Safe from the Sun Walk and 5K Run will be held at the Pavilion on April 5.

The event seeks to raise funds to support the Melanoma International Foundation’s patient outreach programs.

More importantly, it brings together melanoma patients or people that have been affected by melanoma in the community.

Memorial awards will be presented to remember those who have passed away as a result of the disease. Skin screenings by dermatologists, which can detect melanoma in its early stages, will also be offered.

“Prevention is always good, but our message is typically one of early detection, which is why we do the screenings,” said Lisa Newcomb, national director of the Melanoma International Foundation. “Most adults have already damaged their skin in childhood or during their teenage years. Our prevention programs are typically tailored more toward children and high schoolers because learning to examine your skin saves lives now.”

In keeping with their messages of prevention and early detection, Safe from the Sun recently participated in the Love The Skin You’re In fashion show at Villanova. An entire line of sun-safe clothing was showcased at the event.

Newcomb recommends learning how to check your skin if you choose not to take preventative measures, such as avoiding tanning salons.

There is a two-minute video on Safe from the Sun’s Web site that demonstrates the skin checking process.

According to the Melanoma International Foundation’s Web site, 90 percent or more of melanoma cases are caused by ultraviolet radiation either from the sun or tanning salons.

Exposure to tanning lamps before age 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, and new high-pressure sunlamps emit doses of UVR that are 15 times that of the sun’s rays.

When detected early, melanoma is highly curable.

Once it spreads or metastasizes, though, there is no successful treatment.

The American Cancer Society recently cited melanoma as the number one cancer that kills women between the ages of 25 and 28, attributing this statistic in large measure to the usage of tanning salons by young women.

Within that age bracket, melanoma kills more young women than breast cancer does.

One in 52 people develop melanoma, and one person every hour dies from the disease.

Melanoma is officially considered an epidemic, since, while the majority of cancer rates are decreasing, melanoma is one of the only cancers that is still increasing in frequency with no effective treatment for its later stages.

“Our event has honored numerous young women who have passed away from melanoma,” Newcomb said. “The biggest misconception that we hope to break is that so many people think that melanoma is an old person’s disease. Many of the people we remember at our events are young moms, are in their early 30s or are often times teens or in their 20s.”

The event kicks off with registration at 9 a.m. A Health and Wellness Expo Open as well as the skin screenings will also begin at this time.

The Kids’ Dash will take place at 10 a.m., and at 10:30 the two-mile walk and 5K run will commence throughout Villanova’s campus.

The awards ceremony will wrap up the day at 11:30 a.m.

“We thought with the economy this was going to be a slow year, but registration right now is double what it was last year,” Newcomb said. “We’re anticipating between 750 and 1,000 people.”

In the past, the Safe from the Sun walk/run has typically fallen during finals week, which has prohibited many Villanova students from participating in the event.

Since the walk falls earlier this year, its sponsors hope that they will get more student participation.

Students need to be especially aware of the dangers of melanoma because of the tanning trend prevalent among high school and college-age customers.

According to a 2005 study, the U.S. tanning industry has a $3 billion estimated annual revenue.

Seventy percent of tanning salon customers are white women between the ages of 16 and 29.

The UV light from tanning causes endorphins – “feel good” hormones – to be released, resulting in feelings of relaxation.

These hormones are released when exercising, but are also present in those with alcohol and substance dependency.

According to a 2007 Poorsattar and Hornung study, frequent tanners can develop substance-related disorder, or SRD.

“To see the extent to which our students are solicited by local tanning salons is disappointing and alarming,” said Kimberly Hill, coordinator of peer education programs in the Office of Health Promotion. “Tanning salons are, unfortunately, profiting at the expense of the health of young adults. Numerous studies have been published regarding the dangers of tanning, yet the tanning salons continue to market their product falsely as ‘safe.'”

There are no laws in the state of Pennsylvania regulating the sanitary conditions of tanning salons.

Many customers are susceptible to skin infections because salons are not legally required to provide any specific type of sanitation, according to Newcomb.

And while tanning is stereotypically a female’s guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure, it is becoming more and more common among college males.

According to a representative from Metrotans, plenty of younger and older men are patrons at their tanning salon, as well as elderly people seeking alleged benefits of vitamin D in UV rays.

“Male tanning is almost like the hidden secret,” Newcomb said. “Guys definitely do it. I just think maybe they’re not quite so outspoken, which is probably true of any type of beautification process.”

Regardless of tanning demographics, the Safe from the Sun Walk/Run will recognize all those who suffer from melanoma and continue IMF’s efforts to raise awareness of skin health in our community.