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May is Melanoma Awareness Month

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(The following article was written by Brian C Landers (mr_eleven).

Last May I wrote a Cover Page article for Badger & Blade detailing my Stage 4 Melanoma battle (read it here). Since then a lot has happened as any cancer patient will tell you, yet my story has become quite unique and very powerful.

As little as 5 years ago I would have been given a prognosis in months given the size and amount of tumors in my body. Yet today I am almost cancer free and expected to live a long and healthy life because of my body’s response to new immunotherapy drugs that increase the strength of immune responses against tumors.

Because of my almost complete response to these drugs I’ve worked closely with The University of San Francisco (where I receive my care) to become a cancer spokesperson. I have appeared in several television and online news articles and was interviewed on Michael Krasny’s Forum on NPR. I’ve been a patient spokesperson at several melanoma doctor/patient symposiums, and most recently was the subject of a large advertising campaign for UCSF and was plastered onto billboards and bus stops all over San Francisco.

Yet my story is of a small minority as only 30% of patients on the drug therapy I’m on show a positive response, and less than 1% show the kind of complete response I have had. Although cancer care has made some remarkable strides in the past few years, much more work is still needed, which is why everyone must take precautions to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

The easiest thing you can do is to use a good quality sunscreen. I’ve become somewhat of a sunscreen expert and have several brands that I use with great results. For everyday use Nutrogena’s line of sunscreens are recommended universally by dermatologists. If I’m going to be active, say on a bike ride or on the golf course then I use sunscreens from Sun Bum, a line of sunscreens endorsed by many pro surfers. Their stuff is quite water resistant and and does not sting my eyes when I sweat.

Another important precaution is to see your dermatologist once a year and to give yourself regular skin examinations (see below). 20 years ago my first skin cancer diagnosis was caught “accidentally” when my primary care doctor spotted a suspicious mole on my chest during my yearly physical. I can’t stress how important regular skin examinations are, especially if you spend regular time in the sun.

And lastly, please be conscious of the time you and your loved ones spend in the sun. Unfortunately the damaged caused by the sun’s UV rays is cumulative and cannot be undone. Plan ahead and apply sunscreen beforehand, and wear appropriate clothing. Keep hats and sunscreen in your car or in a EDC bag and try to keep the majority of your sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.

I know how fortunate I am, and how amazing my response to therapy has been. Yet, it all remains a struggle I will have to manage for the rest of my life. For almost 2 years now I get an infusion every 3 weeks and get a full-body PET/CT scan every 12 weeks. I’m expected to stay on therapy until early 2017 however I will require new PET/CT scans for the rest of my life to make sure I’m still cancer free.

So it’s for exactly these reasons why I write these articles and appear on TV and radio and allow my picture and story to be used for advertising and education. To help other’s understand there is much we can do to prevent something like this from happening to ourselves, or our loved ones. Thank you.

Brian C Landers

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  1. My thanks to the great folks at Badger & Blade for including my articles each year, and with God's good graces I hope to continue these articles for a long time to come.
    Great articles ! I had my first full body check a couple months ago (@29). My mom has had tumors removed twice, with no systemic involvement. I've been bathing in sunscreen since I was a kid. Also - if you're going to be outside for a while, use an SPF chapstick/lip balm as well! Melanoma can begin on the lips very subtly!
    I am at the age where I have had the pre-cancerous spots frozen off a few times.My fathers head is a mass of scars and valleys from all the removals he has had.My dermatologist recommended Eucerin because it contains zinc and titanium,I don't want skin cancer , but these chemicals along with other sunscreen chemicals are showing up in the blood stream.That can't be good either.
    dexutter
    Great articles @mr_eleven ! I had my first full body check a couple months ago (@29). My mom has had tumors removed twice, with no systemic involvement. I've been bathing in sunscreen since I was a kid. Also - if you're going to be outside for a while, use an SPF chapstick/lip balm as well! Melanoma can begin on the lips very subtly!


    Thank you and good for you and your mom and good call on the SPF lip-balm! I use one as well and wear sunglasses religiously as ocular melanoma is another one we have to watch out for, too.

    malocchio
    I am at the age where I have had the pre-cancerous spots frozen off a few times.My fathers head is a mass of scars and valleys from all the removals he has had.My dermatologist recommended Eucerin because it contains zinc and titanium,I don't want skin cancer , but these chemicals along with other sunscreen chemicals are showing up in the blood stream.That can't be good either.


    Sunscreen is definitely a bit of a dilemma. On one hand it can do a lot of good, yet it seems there's always ingredients present that may do harm as well. As a fair-skinned Scotsman sunscreen is a must, so I try not to beat myself up over the ingredients and just wash it off as soon as I'm done.
    I booked a full body mapping to my dermatologist for next Monday.

    I'm Mediterranean but nice to have an idea of what's happening with a good screening.

    I addition I have a mole growing weird on my leg that cause me some discomfort

    Thanks for raising this issues often underestimated by many people especially younger fellas.
    My parents live on Maui, and you can imagine the doctors there are very meticulous about keeping track of skin issues. I think it is doubly important for haaole to keep up on things since it isn't at the forefront of people's minds like it is on the islands. Great reminder!

    and please understand that I use the potentially pejorative haaole with all affection. Have a great day. :)
    mr_eleven
    My thanks to the great folks at Badger & Blade for including my articles each year, and with God's good graces I hope to continue these articles for a long time to come.


    Thanks so much for sharing your story mr_eleven. :thumbup1: As a fellow regular dermatologist visitor, I'm rooting for you!
    malocchio
    I am at the age where I have had the pre-cancerous spots frozen off a few times.My fathers head is a mass of scars and valleys from all the removals he has had.My dermatologist recommended Eucerin because it contains zinc and titanium,I don't want skin cancer , but these chemicals along with other sunscreen chemicals are showing up in the blood stream.That can't be good either.


    We are in the risk group, you and I, so the smart thing, I think, is to use the sunscreen. I have the actinic keratosis spots frozen off twice a year now as well which is mildly uncomfortable. But I've experienced multiple basal cell and one squamous cell removals. The minuscule risks of very minimal exposure to a few chemicals is far milder than the procedures and risks that result from cancers; not desirable but far less risk than the alternative, in other words. If we follow the directions we can also minimize that subcutaneous exposure as well. For example, applying 15-30 minutes before going into the sun prevents a lot of the penetration across the skin. Hope your news continues to be good! :thumbup:
    I have had 8 spots removed and countless frozen in the past 2 years. I see the dermatologist every quarter to evaluate progress. Those ladies have seen me naked more times than I can count!!
    my year in Vietnam in '68 and my Northern European skin has been showing up, one minor melanoma and a lot of pre cancerous cells started about 30 years ago, and i see dermatologist every 6 months. i try to tell my bass fishing club members about the risks and many are following my advice. keep educating everyone!!
    Before this month ends I want to update this article/thread one more time, as I just had surgery (my 4th) to remove a small tumor in my mesentery, which is a fold of tissue that holds the intestinal tract to the abdominal wall. This tumor was removed as it was difficult to know if it was in fact necrotic (dead) like my others from PET & CT scans. Permanent pathology results will be available later this week.

    Yet even after everything I've been through these past 2 years I have been extremely blessed, extremely lucky and perfectly cared for every step of the way. But, I remain the minority of stage 4 cancer patients as we are still no where near winning the nightmarish battle against cancer and many other diseases.

    Being the mindful minority, I willingly, and wholeheartedly embrace my new responsibility as an ambassador, of sorts, for cancer patients everywhere. I write a blog and speak at new cancer patient/doctor symposiums. I lend myself and story to UCSF to promote new ideas and avenues of care. Yet most importantly I try to help other's understand that our health and security begins within.

    So get outside and play. Go on a hike or bike ride just to watch the sun go down. Splurge on that single-malt you've been eyeing or rib eye you pass by each week at the butcher, or even that new razor /soap / brush you've been dying to try. Whatever it is, just make sure to take a little time each day to see and feel just how amazing our world truly is.

    Just remember to wear a little sunscreen and a nice hat while your at it ;-)

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