Outrun the Sun partners with Fairbanks School of Public Health to combat skin cancer

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Skin cancer is preventable, with proper precautions.

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indianapolis organization is adding a new approach to its efforts to combat skin cancer: public health.

Outrun the Sun Inc. is making a $50,000 endowed gift to the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to create the Outrun the Sun scholarship. The scholarship, which will exist in perpetuity, will support public health students who are studying epidemiology and are interested in working on melanoma- and skin cancer-related projects. 

"We are interested in working with the School of Public Health to better understand the genetic and environmental factors that cause and potentially prevent both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers," said Anita Day, executive director of Outrun the Sun. "We're excited to work with them to study and analyze patterns, causes and effects, and how we might be able to impact skin cancer in our society."

Outrun the Sun builds awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers, educates communities about preventive measures that reduce melanoma's incidence rate, and raises funds for melanoma research that will lead to effective treatments and a cure. The nonprofit has supported, through its Melanoma Research Scholar Program, melanoma researchers who seek new therapies and a cure. The organization has supported 22 researchers to date.

"We are taking a different look in terms of the overall impact that skin cancer has in our community," Day said. "If you look back several decades, you'll see how the incidence has really increased to the point where it has become a public health concern."

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma rates in the United States doubled from 1982 to 2011. "Skin cancer affects more people than breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers combined," Day noted.

"It is a great honor to work with Outrun the Sun," said Jiali Han, the Rachel Cecile Efroymson Professor in Cancer Research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Fairbanks School of Public Health.

"It is our shared passion that brings us together, and it is our mission to reduce skin cancer incidence in the community," Han said. 

The American Academy of Dermatology notes that there were 5.4 million skin cancer cases treated in the U.S. in 2012. On average, more than $8 billion is spent in the U.S. annually to treat all types of skin cancer.

The scholarship will provide students the opportunity to work alongside Han on melanoma- or other skin cancer-related projects.

The school's academic leaders believe this opportunity will inspire young, talented researchers to pursue work on melanoma/skin cancer research. Many of the students Han has previously mentored have gone on to be exceptionally successful in their careers.

The Outrun the Sun scholarship also increases the school's capacity to partner with the community and share prevention tips and discoveries, Han said.

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