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|Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:10 am Post subject:
Major League Baseball to raise skin cancer awareness
06/21/2005 7:35 AM ET
MLB to raise skin cancer awareness
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Fact No. 1: Millions of people will spend this first official day of
summer basking under a hot sun, whether it involves a game of baseball or
any other activity that takes them outdoors just like they have done their
Fact No. 2: Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S.,
claiming one life per hour. One out of every five children will grow up to
develop skin cancer, which also is the leading cancer killer of women
between the ages of 20 and 30.
Those inescapable facts go hand-in-hand and have the rapt attention of
Major League Baseball, which on Tuesday kicked off its biggest campaign
yet to help raise awareness and prevention of skin cancer. The "Play Smart
When It Comes to the Sun" program again is being done jointly with the
American Academy of Dermatology, and this year's annual initiative is
expanded with a greater overall visibility to the public and will include
the Shade Foundation created by Shonda Schilling, wife of Red Sox pitcher
Curt Schilling and a skin cancer survivor.
"The reason I want to do this is because given the fact people are in the
sun so much and obviously skin cancers and melanomas are growing, we need
to be very thorough in our examinations and conscientious in visiting
doctors," Commissioner Bud Selig said in announcing this expanded
initiative. "I want baseball to play a role in that."
Selig has a significant personal interest in this as well.
Last Nov. 2, he was receiving his annual physical from Dr. Ian Gilson and
was deemed in "great shape." It was exactly one week after the Red Sox had
won their world championship, and people were voting for a U.S. president
on that day. Then, just as Selig was walking out of the doctor's office,
something happened that shook his world to the core. "Come back here.
What's that on your face?" the doctor asked him.
Selig, 70, had seen a blotch on the skin above his right eye each morning
that he looked into the mirror before that, and had ignored it as so many
others are prone to do these days. Now there was no ignoring it.
"[Dr. Gilson] also works on some baseball for me, and we were having a
nice discussion," Selig said. "He said I was in great health, I was out
the door, and then he said, 'COME back here.' He put his gloves on, he
felt that area on my forehead, and a couple young doctors were in there,
and I could tell from the look on his face he wasn't the least bit happy.
I went to a dermatologist the next day, he cut something out, and that was
the beginning of a very tough period. Which had a wonderful ending."
Selig was told that subsequent Friday -- three days after the checkup --
that the blotch was cancerous and that it was a Clark Level IV melanoma,
one of the worst, with the possibility that it already could have spread
through the lymphatic system and could have become incurable and fatal.
There was a 90-percent chance that the skin cancer was caught early enough
to keep it from spreading.
The ABCD Rule
American Cancer Society's monthly skin check
Dermatologists recommend doing a skin check monthly so you will be more
likely to notice small changes or even find a skin cancer when it's still
small. The American Cancer Society has an "ABCD" rule that is a convenient
guide to follow. Be on the lookout and notify your doctor about any
changes in the following:
A ASYMMETRY: Half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C COLOR: The color is not the same all over, but may have differing shades
of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
D DIAMETER: The area is larger than six millimeters (about one-quarter
inch -- the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.
The most important warning sign for skin cancer is a spot on the skin that
is changing in size, shape, or color over a period of one month to one or
On Dec. 6, Selig had three hours of surgery that included the removal of
two lymph nodes. He also had plastic surgery and skin transplants. He was
hospitalized at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for three days, two
days longer than he had expected. On Dec. 13, after his six-week mostly
private nightmare, Selig finally heard the news he had hoped -- "you're
Now on this first official day of summer, Selig said he wants others to
avoid that nightmare or to at least have that doctor who also can make
that crucial evaluation.
"The experience that I had taught me a lot," Selig said. "There's not an
awareness. When the doctor called me that Friday afternoon in early
November and told me I had a Level IV melanoma, I was stunned. I was not a
guy who ever sat out in the sun, and obviously I'm very fair-skinned. I
started doing a lot of research, it was serious obviously, and I knew it
was, I went to Sloan-Kettering in early December, but awareness is so
important because it can save lives.
"People need to get checked. They don't seem to understand that. It's the
same thing with colon cancer and colonoscopies. Obviously, I was very
fortunate I had the surgery and it didn't spread and I was fine. I will
forever be grateful to [Dr. Gilson] for discovering it. But we need to
really continue and be conscientious. Baseball can be a most appropriate
vehicle for that. I've worked with Shaunda Schilling and the people at
Sloan-Kettering, and we're going to have a very effective program."
For the seventh consecutive year, Major League Baseball will team with the
AAD to provide free skin cancer screenings to players, coaches, staff
members and their families at MLB ballparks. Selig initiated an expanded
approach to the "Play It Safe" program this year. It includes working with
the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (sponsored by AAD, the
American Cancer Society and The Skin Cancer Foundation) and the Shade
Foundation. A national ad awareness campaign begins Tuesday, with
public-service announcements generated to clubs along with scoreboard copy
and PA announcements. Educational materials will be distributed as well at
the John Hancock All-Star FanFest next month in Detroit.
The National Council advises use of at least one of the following four
measures to help reduce the risk of skin cancer:
• Avoid the sun between 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Wear sun-protective clothing when exposed to sunlight.
• Use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
• Avoid artificial sources of ultraviolet light.
The Shade Foundation was created to educate youths. The group's goals are
to raise funds to place sun-safe shades on playgrounds across Arizona and
eventually the country, as well as to institute a sun-safety program with
"I don't want any family ever to lose someone that they love just because
they didn't think that skin cancer was serious," Shonda Schilling said.
Bud Selig learned that as well and said he never will forget those words
Dr. Gilson uttered as the Commissioner was on his way out of that doctor's
office on a routine checkup. Now Selig said he hopes baseball and its
ever-expanding reach will help make a difference in this area.
"I hope so," he said. "Knowing what I know, we'll do everything we can. If
we save one life, it's all worthwhile. If we can save more, then great."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject
to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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