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For Release:
May 22, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Susan Horn or Laura Finlayson
Rosica Strategic Public Relations
Marilyn Riley or Tom Slater

New Jersey Launches ‘Choose Your Cover’ Melanoma Awareness Campaign


Residents Learn How to Protect Themselves from Skin Cancer


OCEAN CITY – As the incidence of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – climbs nationwide, New Jersey today launched a summer-long educational campaign to make people aware of the need to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays.


The campaign reminds people that “Whatever Skin You’re In, Choose Your Cover” in order to protect yourself when working or playing outdoors.  People from all racial and ethnic groups can develop skin cancer, although those with lighter skin are at much greater risk, particularly of developing its most deadly form – malignant melanoma.


“Protection from ultraviolet rays and sunburn today decreases skin cancer risk in the future,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.  “When Governor James E. McGreevey released his Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan earlier this year, he made a commitment to reducing cancer as a major public health threat in New Jersey.  This melanoma education and awareness campaign is one means of decreasing the incidence of skin cancer in our state.”


The $275,000 campaign is a portion of the $3.25 million allocated for cancer initiatives in this year’s New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services budget.


Joining in the launch of the initiative on the Ocean City Boardwalk were representatives of the Governor’s Task Force on Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment in New Jersey, the American Cancer Society, Shore Memorial Hospital and the Ocean City beach patrol. 


“Melanoma cases continue to climb, with an increasing incidence of cases in young adults.  More than 1,300 cases were diagnosed in New Jersey in 2000 and more than 200 people died,” said Dr. Arnold Baskies, chairman of the Governor’s Task Force.  “With people soon heading to the beach, now is a good time for everyone to learn how to protect themselves this summer and year-round.”


“One of the most prevalent cancers between the ages of 20 and 29 is skin cancer and it is also the most preventable,” said Vinny Smith, director of skin cancer prevention/detection and school health education for the American Cancer Society, Eastern Division.  “Everyone should avoid overexposure to the UV rays of the sun so they don’t pay with their health later.”


The ‘Choose Your Cover’ campaign is modeled on one developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Campaign posters and pamphlets recommend the following sun protection measures:


  • select a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15;
  • wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants;
  • wear a hat with a four-inch brim that shades face, ears and the back of the neck;
  • wear proper sunglasses that protect the eyes from UV rays, reduce the risk of cataracts and protect the skin around the eyes;
  • avoid outdoor activities during midday when the sun’s UV rays are strongest; and
  • stay in the shade whenever possible, whether under an umbrella, tree or other shelter.


“Choose Your Cover” posters and brochures are being widely distributed in areas where they will have the greatest impact, such as parks, camps, and beaches.  They are also being distributed to schools statewide. “Choose Your Cover” billboards will be placed in every county in the state.


“It’s especially important to reach parents and young people with this message.  Sunburns in childhood and adolescence cause skin damage that accumulates over the years and can contribute to skin cancer risk in adulthood,” Commissioner Lacy said. 


In addition to excessive UV exposure through sunlight or tanning beds, risk factors for melanoma include having fair skin, having a history of severe sunburn, having a family history of melanoma, having multiple moles or unusual moles, and having reduced immune function due to organ transplant or HIV infection.


The incidence of melanoma has been increasing rapidly nationwide, according to the state’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan.  One person in 80 is now at risk of developing the disease in his or her lifetime – nearly a 200 percent increase since 1930.  The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2002, melanoma will be the fifth leading cancer for American men, and the sixth for American women.


Recognizing the importance of skin cancer and melanoma as health issues, the Governor’s Task Force included a melanoma chapter when it developed the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan, a five-year blueprint for cancer control and prevention.  The Task Force -- which is comprised of physicians, nurses, researchers and cancer survivors -- is also responsible for coordinating implementation of all aspects of the plan. 


                Today’s press event was co-sponsored by Sun Clothing etc. and the Barbizon School of Modeling.  For educational materials and more information, please contact the Department of Health and Senior Services Cancer Education and Early Detection Program at (609) 292-8540.


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