Outrun the Sun Co-founder Talks sun Safety and Melanoma Awareness
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photography / Brian Brosmer
After the last remnants of winter and early spring chill have seemed to vanish for good, it’s tempting to dash out the front door and bask in as much of the sun’s warmth as possible. Understandable, yes, but statistics show that plenty of precautions should be taken to avoid the potentially serious health consequences a few seemingly harmless rays can cause.
May is National Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness month, and according to Anita Day, co-founder and executive director of Outrun the Sun, an Indianapolis-based organization dedicated to promoting awareness, research and education of melanoma and other skin cancers, close to four million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. – more than breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers combined.
“Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in America,” Day says. “While different types of skin cancer aren’t considered to be life-threatening like melanoma, it still requires some extensive surgery and they can be life threatening if left undetected and untreated. It’s a much bigger issue than people realize.”
While there is ultimately no way to fully eliminate the chance of developing one of the three major types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma – that can result from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds, there are many ways to protect yourself and reduce risk.
“Here’s a really scary statistic – if you get one sunburn as a child, just one, it really increases your risk for developing melanoma later in life,” Day says. “There’s really no such thing as safe tanning. If you’re going to be at things like your kid’s baseball game in the bleachers for three hours, it’s all about hats, sunglasses, long sleeves and of course sunscreen. You have to be cognizant of how long you’ve been out and reapply sunscreen often.”
Day says the advent of tanning beds has exacerbated the already widespread problem of melanoma and other skin cancers. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, individuals who use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
“Tanning beds are a big problem, and the notion that getting a base tan will protect you from sunburn is a myth,” Day says. “You see a lot of students who are heading down to Florida for spring break and they head to the tanning booths beforehand to get that base tan, but it doesn’t protect you. Whether it comes from the sun or an indoor tanning bed or what have you, tan skin is damaged skin. And with the fact that everyone grows up thinking that you need to be tan to be attractive, it’s tough to go up against that when you’re trying to decrease the incidents of skin cancer.”
Outrun the Sun is now in its fourth year partnering with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), and this year at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 guests can receive free sunscreen and UV wristbands that change color when exposed to light and also view public service announcements on the IMS video boards featuring Outrun the Sun spokesperson and Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden.
“It’s been a far-reaching program, and we’re thrilled to work with IMS on the initiative,” Day says. “It’s such a big event with a lot of people out in the sun all weekend, so it’s great to have some presence and keep people informed and aware of protecting themselves.”
Outrun the Sun will hold its 13th annual Race Against Melanoma at Fort Harrison State Park on June 17, consisting of a five-mile competitive run, a five-kilometer run/walk and a one-mile fun walk, beginning at 6 p.m. Proceeds benefit Outrun the Sun’s research and education programs.
“Along with the race there’s a sunset festival and there will be music, food trucks, games and activities for all ages, and we encourage everyone to come out,” Day adds.
For additional information on Outrun the Sun, including ticketing and registration details for the Race Against Melanoma on June 17, visit outrunthesun.org.