UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

May 2010

May is Cancer Research Awareness Month and Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

It seems each new month brings a host of opportunities to recognize and raise awareness for different types of cancer. The most recognized month is October, of course, when we work to raise breast cancer awareness, and during May, we in Pittsburgh remember that cause by supporting the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Mother's Day. But other awareness campaigns have certainly succeeded in staking their claims, and May stands for two very important areas in the cancer world — it is Cancer Research Awareness Month as well as Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. These are two worthy causes — both deserve as much attention and time as we can give them.

May is an especially good month to reflect on the pivotal role of cancer research, the importance of which cannot be overstated. It influences everything from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. This year May is the bridge between the two premier international meetings in cancer. In April, 2010 researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute gave over fifty presentations at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, showcasing our studies on a wide variety of topics, from the identification of potential new biomarkers for ovarian cancer, to the complexities surrounding DNA repair, to links between viruses and cancer. In June, 2010 physician-scientists from UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter will make over thirty presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, discussing the results and impact of our clinical research.

Photo of Dr. John M. KirwoodOur experts and their contributions at ASCO will be broad, spanning everything from lung cancer to liver cancer to ocular melanoma. But I want to particularly showcase the members of the UPCI Melanoma Program, who will give seven different presentations discussing the results of various melanoma clinical trials. Led by Dr. John Kirkwood, this team continues to make an exceptional impact on melanoma research, and it is gratifying to see its hard work recognized.

It is especially fitting that their work will be presented just as we finish Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month because melanoma is one of the most worrisome types of skin cancer. While our researchers work to find the best treatments for skin cancer, I want to encourage all members of our community to become more vigilant about skin cancer prevention and detection. According to the latest survey from the American Academy of Dermatology, Pittsburgh came in last place out of 26 cities in understanding sun safety. Even though it feels like we have more than our share of cloudy days, sun exposure remains a danger for all of us — it is a key ingredient in risk for all skin cancers, including melanoma. According to this survey, we need to encourage each other to wear sun screen and protective clothing when outdoors and avoid tanning beds. In addition, pay careful attention to any skin changes you may have and don't hesitate to contact your doctor if you find something has changed.

AACR, the organization sponsoring and promoting Cancer Research Awareness Month, reminds us with its new tag line that cancer research saves lives. We say the same thing here to remind everyone in our community about the importance of all forms of cancer research. Please continue to find ways to lend your support to the cause of cancer research, and take some time this month to educate yourself, and others, on sun safety. We are proud to have a world-class melanoma team at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter but we are happiest if you never need to use it.