Skin In The Game: Nonprofits, Med Companies Push Melanoma Awareness

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and organizations are eager to promote early detection and prevention.

Teddi Mellencamp, a “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” alumna and daughter of singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, shows off her melanoma shoulder and back scars as the latest face (and more) of the long-running #GetNaked campaign from the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF).

Backed by corporate support from pharma companies Bristol Myers Squibb and Eisa, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena skincare brand and sun protection clothing brand Cabana Life, #GetNaked  -- coinciding with Melanoma Awareness Month -- focuses on early detection of the dangerous skin cancer and education about preventive measures, including the need for an annual full body skin exam.

On that front, nearly three quarters (74.2%) of Americans have not received a full skin exam within the previous 12 months, according to a recent survey by DermTech, which markets a product that lets healthcare providers test for melanoma via a sticker rather than a scalpel. Yet, the company said, 48.9% of respondents reported that they currently have – or are not sure if they have – new or changing moles.

DermTech has launched the third year of its own awareness/education campaign, called #Stickit2Melanoma, whose purpose includes getting people to pledge to schedule a skin exam within the next 20 days. The campaign includes the distribution of pledge stickers to doctors’ offices, as well as UV bracelets that change color to indicate when the wearer should consider getting out of the sun.

For every #Stickit2Melanoma pledge to schedule a skin exam, DermTech says it will make a $5 donation to MRF and other non-profits. Since 2021, DermTech reports donating $500,000 and it has pledged to donate up to $1 million through 2025.

Another company urging people to schedule skin exams is PathologyWatch, which provides digital services to healthcare providers. Any dermatologist or dermatopathologist who registers to join its campaign receives a “Show Me Some Skin” T-shirt.

Melanoma is now the third most common form of cancer in people aged 15 to 29, according to the Aim at Melanoma Foundation. And overexposure to the sun at younger ages can cause melanoma down the road.

“The damage we do to our skin when we’re younger can catch up to us,” MRF quotes 41-year-old Mellencamp as saying.  She had sunbathed frequently as a teen but was shocked when the moles on her back and shoulders turned out to be melanoma.

Promoting the need for regular skin exams out to Gen Z is an uphill task, according to just-released survey results from AAD.

For 20% of 18- to 25-year-olds, the survey found, getting a tan is more important than preventing skin cancer. And 30% said it’s worth looking great now even if it means looking worse later in life.

Indeed, after decades of educational efforts about the effects of the sun on skin, the survey found that 71% in the age group were unfamiliar with sunburn risks and 40% unaware of tanning risks.

We’ll let Mellencamp have the last words: “I want to spread the message as far as possible…While I may have scars all along my back, they’re worth it knowing my story can help save yours.”

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