War on Melanoma™ News

A melanoma survivor and her scar.

What You Need to Know: Diagnosing Melanoma

A thumbnail image of Dr. Leachman's presentation to the MRA

Dr. Sancy Leachman joined the Melanoma Research Alliance in April of 2021 to present What You Need to Know: Diagnosing Melanoma. In her talk, she gives an overview how dermatologists examine lesions at the visual, cellular, & genetic level to distinguish between healthy moles and possible melanomas. 

Watch the full presentation.

Dermatology resident Carter Haag, M.D., awarded Melanoma Research Alliance Fellowship Award

MRA Dermatology Fellows Award for Dr. Carter Haag

Current resident Dr. Carter Haag, M.D., was awarded the Fellowship Award from the Melanoma Research Alliance, the largest non-profit funder of melanoma research. The award was given for Dr. Haag's project titled Multimedia Learning for Melanoma Prevention and Early Detection Education, and will result in a $35,000 grant to support an independent research or demonstration project focused on advancing melanoma prevention or early detection. Dr. Haag was one of 13 recipients. You can read the full press release here.

Dr. Haag's project is a specialty multimedia learning effort that will be used to bolster the War on Melanoma High School Outreach Program, a medical-student-led project to create and implement a melanoma skin cancer awareness and education curriculum across Oregon schools. To learn more about this project, or refer a teacher to request this curriculum, please visit the High School Outreach page.

OHSU medical students awarded grants for high school skin cancer curriculum project

A group of dermatology-interested medical students posing for a picture

A group of OHSU dermatology-interested medical students have been selected as recipients of two grants -- the Robert L. Bacon Endowment Fund for Medical Education Enrichment at OHSU and the Melanoma Research Foundation's (MRF) Medical Student Research Grant -- for their efforts in creating and implementing a skin cancer curriculum for high schools. The funds, totaling nearly $5,000 will assist the group in the creation and distribution of materials, as well as time and travel costs for implementing this skin cancer curriculum in schools.

The group of medical students that were awarded as part of the project are Victoria Orfaly, Gina Calco, Claire Turina, Nicole Santucci, Mary Ryan, AshleyReese, Adam Roscher, Eleanor Thaler, Nina Kostur, Erin Urbanowicz, Sam Defreese, Abigale Shettig, and Erika Sawka. Victoria Orfaly was the awardee of the MRF grant.

OHSU doctors launch 'War on Melanoma' campaign (KATU2)

"Early detection is the key for melanoma,” Bar said. “When you catch a melanoma in an early stage, there's 98, 99, 100 percent survival.

That’s why doctors at OHSU have launched their “War on Melanoma” campaign — after all, it’s cancer you can actually see.

"It's one of the most preventable cancers," Helmandollar-Armatas said. “It’s like, ‘oh man, if only I would have known.’”

But now Helmandollar-Armatas does know, and talks to people about her battle, adding skin cancer prevention advocate to her already impressive list of accomplishments.

Read the full article/video article.

Can a Broad Early Detection Experiment Succeed in Improving Melanoma Outcomes? (Medpagetoday; ASCO)

Melanoma incidence is increasing more rapidly than any other preventable cancer in the U.S. Survival rates for localized melanoma are >95% but are considerably lower when there is regional or distant spread of disease. Hence, there is interest in revisiting screening strategies for early detection of melanoma. This article describes a study in Oregon, known as the “War on Melanoma,” that is testing the hypothesis that an early detection campaign will reduce melanoma mortality by almost half. The study is based on an earlier pilot project in northern Germany (“SCREEN”), where screening produced a 50% reduction in melanoma mortality at 5 years after the program.  Read full article here.

Melanoma Community Registry News/Updates

General's Message: Staying connected amongst the disconnect

I hope this message finds you and your families well. As summer rolls along, many of us are longing for normalcy. While some have taken that to the extreme of disregarding health recommendations (seriously, wear your masks!), many of us are just trying to re-capture some of the simple things that make us happy. Like human interaction.

Social distancing, while vital, has also almost certainly changed the way we interact with each other. Whether it be the frequency of communication, or the method by which you communicate, this change in our interactions (or lack there of) has taken a toll on most of us. It's an important part of adapting to our new normal, and I hope you are finding ways to stay connected to the ones you love. Whether it's an additional phone call, or a video chat, or even an in-person socially distant hello, being able to communicate with and support in each other will help us regain some normalcy in our lives.

Our War on Melanoma leadership is actively seeking ways to stay connected to you the melanoma community! We weren't able to host any of our in-person events this year, but instead have hosted multiple Virtual Melanoma Roundtable Events that we wouldn't have had otherwise (you can view the recordings below if you were unable to attend). We're also excited to announce another event (see below!) that anyone can become involved with virtually.

In a world of increased "disconnect" it can be seemingly harder to stay connected. But as we find creative solutions to adapt, we may just find its possible to maintain, or who knows, even improve our human connections.

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.


As most of you know, each year we host a community walk in partnership with AIM at Melanoma and melanoma community champions. While we're unable to host an in-person walk this year, we are excited to announce:
2020 Virtual Steps Against Melanoma Walk
September 19, 2020 

Whether from your home, neighborhood, or favorite trails, we can still all walk together to support melanoma advocacy. Create or join a team to help fundraise for melanoma research! To learn more or to register, visit AIM at Melanoma Virtual Walk Portland page.


Virtual Melanoma Roundtable Event Recordings

In late April we hosted the event "Melanoma in the Era of COVID-19", and in July "What's New in Melanoma Research". The events both featured a panel of experts from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Melanoma Program and tackled current topics and answered audience Q&A. If you were unable to make it to either, you can view the recordings below:

P.S.: We're planning another virtual roundtable for September! Be on the lookout for details.

Melanoma Awareness Survey: At a snapshot

Thank you to all of you that responded to the Melanoma Awareness Survey promoted in May and again in July. We were able to get a significant number of responses that will help us analyze and compare melanoma awareness and knowledge among populations! At a glance:

  • 906 participants filled out at least part of the survey, with 735 completing all survey questions
  • The majority of responses were from Oregonians (~71%), but we received responses from participants in 36 states
  • For "how confident you are that you are able to check your skin for signs of skin cancer", 23,7% of respondents answered "not very confident" (compared to 55.4% fairly confident or 16.7% very confident)
  • Over 95% of participants knew having a family history of melanoma was a risk factor for melanoma, but just 58% of people correctly indicated that having a lot of moles is also a risk factor.

Once this data is analyzed our goal is to eventually publish the findings. We'd love to share more significant data on this once we have it! If you haven't filled out the survey but would like to, you can find it here.

General's Message: "The New Normal" and Melanoma?

Hello all - I hope this message finds you well. As the months roll on, I know many of you are continuing to look for answers in regards to COVID-19 -- and specifically how it affects your care for skin cancers.

Health care as a whole has been in a consistent state of adaptation since COVID-19 arrived. We're confident that the sacrifices and guidelines we've all been facing have helped to flatten the curve of the disease. We're also hoping to transition back into a more normal state of in-person care while being mindful that this pandemic is not, and will not be "over" for a long time. As it's commonly quoted, we're looking to find "a new normal". What is this new normal for melanoma?

The first thing that comes to mind is an image, similar to the one posted above. A scale or balance. As medical providers, our goal is always to promote the overall health for all of our patients. Your skin, of course, is an important part of that, but we can't ignore other threats that could possibly be more harmful in the short term. Our best advice becomes this idea of balancing risk/threats. This is unique for each individual, and it can be hard to come to a definitive yes or no, but I hope this can be a conceptual tool to help you navigate your care.

Secondly, many providers (including us) have developed virtual appointment options to help alleviate the need for in-person appointments. Less than a year ago, an in-person appointment was basically your only option. Many clinical offices now offer scheduled telephone visits, virtual visits (live), and E-visits that you can submit at any time. Furthermore, we're striving to continually improve these virtual options, including an upcoming program that will allow patients to borrow a smart phone attachment that will allow your phone to take high quality skin images to be diagnosed remotely. Virtual visits are not going to replace in-person visits, but being able to receive care remotely for a worrisome lesion is certainly a powerful risk-benefit option while we're still fighting a pandemic.

Thirdly, our ability to engage with the melanoma community (a cause I am always passionate about) was mostly tied to in-person community events. We were able to host our first ever virtual conference in April (recording here) to positive feedback, and we'll be looking to do so again in July (details to come).

Lastly, while many bench-side research efforts have been delayed or paused due to the pandemic, we've been focusing time on the development and administration of future research studies. Often times the most powerful basis for any research is the voice of the patient/end user, thus surveys are one of the most critical steps in the process. We've asked for feedback on one survey, titled "Melanoma Awareness Survey". If you haven't yet completed, YOU STILL CAN BY CLICKING HERE  -- the survey will be active for a few more days. We'll have another important survey forthcoming in July, so be on the lookout for info on that one also.

Thank you for your time,

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.

SHARE, tag, or re-post the posts below to your social following to remind them to Start Seeing Melanoma! Each share, tag, or re-post will enter you in a raffle to win swag.

"Stay at Home. Check Your Skin. Save Lives."
(Facebook) / (Instagram)

 Follow us for more up-to-date posts, photos and engagement with other advocates! (Facebook / Instagram)


The global melanoma community mourns loss of AIM at Melanoma founder Val Guild

The world lost one of its greatest melanoma advocates as Val Guild, founder of AIM at Melanoma passed away May 21, 2020. After losing her daughter to melanoma, Val poured her time, money, heart and soul into combating the disease. Her support of melanoma research worldwide and ferocious resolve to make large tangible impacts on melanoma will be sorely missed. You can read the full statement from AIM at Melanoma, as well as leave a message of condolence by visiting the AIM at Melanoma website.

Yearly AIM at Melanoma 5k Walk to be hosted virtually September 2020

2020 would have marked the 7th straight year we've partnered with AIM at Melanoma to host an in-person melanoma awareness and fundraising 5k walk. For the safety of our community, as well as current limitations on in-person events, we've decided to host a virtual walk for the first time! The virtual walk is slated for September, but don't let that stop you from registering and fundraising now! For more information, visit the Steps Against Melanoma Walk Portland registration page.

Dr. Leachman shares tips on skin cancer safety during COVID-19.

As people spend more time at home -- and enjoy time outside more than ever -- an OHSU dermatology expert has a message: Use this extra time to check and protect your skin! Read full article.

Melanoma Awareness Survey

Take survey

Answer questions on your melanoma knowledge -- and help us identify education goals for our public health campaign!

You are invited to take a survey that has been sent to a sample population in Oregon, Washington and Utah to test general knowledge and behaviors around melanoma.

We want to compare your survey responses against the general public, to help us understand knowledge gaps between those affected by melanoma and the general public.

This is IMPORTANT to the future of our research program, please consider helping us with this project. We want every member of the registry to participate.

This survey is estimated to take between 5 - 10 minutes to complete, and is confidential.

General's Message: A glance behind, a march forward

As we rapidly approach summer I wanted to share with you some insights about our past progress, and look ahead to some upcoming efforts (and solicit ideas from you!).

Phase I of the Start Seeing Melanoma™ (SSM) campaign ran from summer to early fall last year. Phase I generated 16.5 million impressions - largely to Oregonians - and drove nearly 60,000 page views to our SSM website. We've analyzed ways we need to improve and are continuing to refine methods to improve our impact (especially in urban and highest-risk demographics) through focus groups and ad testing. We look towards May to launch a Phase II program, and would love to get your input - If you're interested in giving feedback or ideas please reply to this email!

We're also looking at Phase II of our grassroots activism with a revised volunteer program. I say it often but YOU are our greatest resource. More info on this soon, but keep your eyes open for our upcoming opportunities!

Lastly, we have hosted annual community events in May for Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month. We were hard at work on the details for this year's event, but due to the current status of the COVID-19 situation, we've decided to postpone (more on that below).

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.


Oregon Skin Cancer Action Month

Due to the status of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone all melanoma community events - most notably our annual event in May. While we were excited to offer a group of opportunities as a "melanoma action month", nothing comes before our well being.

The good news, though, is that we will be offering these events at a later date! Below is a sneak peak of what's to come this summer:

  • AIM at Melanoma Steps Against Melanoma 5K Walk
  • Free skin cancer screenings in multiple locations throughout Oregon (stay tuned -- registry members will get first priority to register!)
  • Melanoma patient and caregiver symposium
  • Medical provider continuing education

SHARE, tag, or re-post the posts below to your social following to remind them to Start Seeing Melanoma! Each share, tag, or re-post will enter you in a raffle to win swag.

"Prevention is only half the battle. Really early detection is just as important "(Facebook Video) / (Instagram Video)

 Follow us for more up-to-date posts, photos and engagement with other advocates! (Facebook / Instagram)


Industry-linked studies more favorable to indoor tanning, researchers say

Indoor tanning continues to be a threat, especially to youth. A recent study from researchers at Stanford School of Medicine found that indoor-tanning studies that had financial ties to the industry are likely to downplay the risks and discuss potential benefits. Read full article.

These are the states with the highest risk for melanoma linked to UV rays

A team of researchers headed by the American Cancer Society looked at states with the highest rates of melanoma cases linked to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. (Spoiler: Oregon is included). Read full article.

General's Message: You have the power!

There are only SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION; all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. Actually, make that closer to 3.5 in the digital world according to research completed by Facebook, Cornell, and the Universita degli Studi di Milano (article). What does this have to do with you? Everything! By harnessing the idea of linking the people you know, to people they know (and so on), we have the power to reach everyone in the state of Oregon and beyond.

Thank you to everyone magnifying our efforts by posting, emailing, tweeting and talking up the campaign! Can you think of a way to use the six degrees of separation concept to magnify it further among your contacts? We are all "influencers". Let's use it for the greater good. Let's eradicate preventable deaths from melanoma.

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.

SHARE, tag, or re-post the posts below to your social following to remind them to Start Seeing Melanoma! Each share, tag, or re-post will enter you in a raffle to win swag.

"When it comes to skin cancer, we must have each other's back"

(Facebook Post) / (Instagram Post)

 Follow us for more up-to-date posts, photos and engagement with other advocates! (Facebook / Instagram)


Speaking of spreading the word, we wanted to highlight registry member and Hometown Hero Liz Hasty. Liz has taken to her social channels multiple times to spread melanoma early detection, both sharing existing post and even making her own! Keep up the great work.


Eye Get Dilated: A focus on ocular melanoma with Dr. Alison Skalet

Alison Skalet, M.D., Ph.D. is an Ophthalmic Oncologist, and part of the melanoma program at OHSU. She joined the Melanoma Research Foundation to shed light on a rare, but certainly real threat of ocular melanoma to promote their #EyeGetDialated campaign. You can read the full article here

Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) Survey Response

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the MRF Survivorship Program survey. In all, we contributed nearly 250 responses, providing a huge bump to their total response rate and giving valuable feedback on the needs of the melanoma community.