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2017 ‘War on Skin Cancer Event’ aims to better understand why family matters with a melanoma diagnosis

Complete a family tree to reveal risk for melanoma; ask experts skin-related questions; view a moving photo display of melanoma patient scars, stories
War on Skin Cancer 2016
The 2016 War on Skin Cancer Event, held at the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland, May 21, 2016. (OHSU/Patrick Kinghorn)

As a physician-researcher in a state that has one of the highest rates of melanoma and skin cancers in the nation, Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., advocates the basics of sun protection: wear protective clothing, use sunscreen, and avoid the sun at the warmest part of the day.

Dr. Sancy Leachman
Dr. Sancy Leachman, at an OHSU clinic in 2015. (OHSU/Fritz Liedtke)

Since May 2014, Leachman and team have been waging a “war” on skin cancer through community-based efforts in Oregon and beyond. May is Melanoma Awareness Month, so Leachman and team are again hosting the “War on Skin Cancer Event” Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to educate the community about sun safety and skin cancer risk factors.

At this year’s event, scientists and clinicians are seeking to unearth more clues into familial genetic predisposition for melanoma to better understand how future research can benefit those most at risk. This Saturday attendees can fill out a family tree, or pedigree, to get a better sense of their potential risk factors. They also will have the opportunity to speak with a melanoma study team and provide a saliva sample to help inform future melanoma DNA research.

“It’s critical to catch melanoma and other skin cancers at their earliest stage, before they become life-threatening,” said Leachman, director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Research Program and chair of the Department of Dermatology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “We know that people with a genetic predisposition to melanoma have a higher risk of developing melanoma themselves, and I want to empower people to understand their personal risk and know what to look for.”

Skin cancer
Third-year OHSU resident Kelly Griffith-Bauer, M.D., examines a patient. (OHSU/Patrick Kinghorn)

Kelly Griffith-Bauer, M.D., a third-year resident in dermatology in the OHSU School of Medicine, also wants to put a face to this disease.  

“I think there’s a lack of awareness in the community about the face of melanoma,” said Griffith-Bauer. “One of my goals is to show the world what a skin cancer survivor looks like. It could be teenager, a sister, brother, mother or son.”

Griffith-Bauer married her passion for science with her love of photography to create a photo gallery commemorating skin cancer patients, their scars and stories, called the Scar Project. Griffith-Bauer and many of the patients featured will be attending the event to discuss the people behind the scars and their hopes for the future.

In addition to family history discussions and the Scar Project photo gallery, “War on Skin Cancer Event” attendees can:

  • Attend a Melanoma Scientific Symposium and ask the experts any skin-related question.
  • Participate in the 6th annual “AIM at Melanoma” 5K Walk and Fun Run -- proceeds from the walk will benefit the OHSU Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium.
  • Visit informational booths featuring sun safety education, research project updates, the MoleMapper phone app, skin cancer-themed games and more. 
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