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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: May 13, 2013


Rehoboth, DE - The alarming rise in malignant melanoma incidence in Delaware prompted the Delaware Division of Public Health's (DPH) Comprehensive Cancer Program to kick off a skin cancer awareness campaign today in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

The latest cancer statistics show that Delaware's malignant melanoma incidence rate was increasing at a rate two-thirds greater than the U.S. (64.3 percent for Delaware vs. 20 percent for the U.S.) from 1995-1999 through 2005-2009. While most of Delaware's malignant melanoma cases were diagnosed in the local stage, when they are the most treatable, the proportion of cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed in the regional stage doubled from 4.9 percent in the period 1980 to 1984 to 10 percent in the period 2005 to 2009.

"This data helps drive policy and practice," DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said. "We are investing in outreach and prevention to remind people about the dangers of tanning and tanning beds, and the importance of using sunscreen."

On May 24 at the Rehoboth Bandstand, DPH will hand out sunscreen, sunburn care and literature donated by Hawaiian Tropic, Neutrogena and Safe Tech as part of national "Don't Fry Day" sponsored by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. DPH will be joined by the Tunnell Cancer Center and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which is bringing a special touch tank for kids. The on-going campaign will include messages on life guard chairs at the beach, social media and outreach, and an art contest in schools this fall.

"We want Delawareans to know that no tanning is safe," said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf. "Everyone should be extremely cautious when exposed to the sun outdoors, and when tanning indoors. And, in Delaware no one under the age of 18 is allowed to use a tanning salon without a parent's permission."

House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf knows firsthand about the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of early detection. A former Rehoboth Beach lifeguard and retired Delaware State Police trooper, Schwartzkopf spent thousands of hours in the sun, which resulted in him contracting melanoma recently.

"When I was lifeguarding, skin cancer and the dangers of sun exposure was the furthest thing from your mind," Schwartzkopf said. "I was lucky - my dermatologist discovered life-threatening melanoma at the earliest stage and only because of that early detection, I'm still alive today. I can't say enough how critical it is to take preventative steps when you're out in the sun and to get yourself checked out regularly. It's obviously made a huge difference in my life."

Lilith Elmore, a Sussex County high school student, shared a poignant story about malignant melanoma. "My mother died from metastatic melanoma of the lungs in December 2011. Her battle with cancer began my freshman year of high school, when going to the dermatologist they found a suspicious and 'weeping' mole on her scalp. Once the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, the doctors did everything they could to keep it from spreading to other parts of her body.

"No treatment, drug, doctor or surgery could keep this deadly disease from spreading to my mother's lungs. Through the grieving process of losing my mother, I knew I wanted to make skin cancer awareness part of my life."

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and tanning beds damages the epidermis, the skin's top layer. Long-term sun exposure, sunbathing, having sunburns, or using tanning beds increases the chance of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure also causes wrinkles, age spots and uneven skin tone.

To prevent skin cancer, limit sun exposure and follow this advice:

The risk of skin cancer is greatest for persons who are fair-skinned or who have blue or green eyes; has skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; has many large and irregularly shaped moles; and who are exposed to the sun through work and play. Persons at high risk of developing skin cancer have a history of excessive sun exposure, blistering sunburns, or indoor tanning; and have a personal or family history of skin cancer.

The earlier that skin cancers are detected, the less likely that they will metastasize (spread) to other body parts. See a dermatologist immediately if you have moles that are different from others, sores that do not heal, new skin growths, and moles with one or more of the ABCDE characteristics:

For more information, contact the Delaware Division of Public Health's Comprehensive Cancer Control Program at 302-744-1040; or visit or

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.