Monday, May 14, 2007

Skin Cancer Awareness Month 21 years ago

While online conducting a search of recent press releases, stories, blogs, and other posts regarding Skin Cancer Awareness month, The Cancer Crusaders Organization, the National Skin Cancer Awareness Symbol, and the ONLY SKIN DEEP? Book, I found this Proclamation on Skin Cancer issued by the late President Ronald Reagan:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and its incidence is rising. Fortunately, it is also the most preventable form of cancer and the easiest to detect early and treat successfully. The risk of developing skin cancer increases throughout adult life, with the highest incidence occurring among people over 50.

There are two basic types of skin cancer: the common basal cell and squamous cell cancers, and the less common but far more serious type called melanoma. More than 400,000 new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. These cancers have a high cure rate, especially with early detection and prompt treatment. Most can be treated in the doctor's office.

Occurrence of nonmelanoma skin cancers varies directly with exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun (and "sun lamps" of various kinds), and indirectly with skin pigmentation. Older Americans can reduce their risk of skin cancer by avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight, particularly if they are fair-skinned; by avoiding exposure during the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours; by wearing protective clothing; and by using sunscreen lotions and ointments. Prudent avoidance of too much sunlight is fully compatible with enjoyment of the great outdoors.

Older Americans may mistake the signs of skin cancer for normal skin changes due to aging, and they should be alert to these signs. Many skin growths are noncancerous, but any new growth on the skin, or a sore that does not heal, should promptly be brought to a doctor's attention. Skin cancer has many different appearances, but it occurs most frequently on sun-exposed areas of the body.

Melanoma is a far more serious health problem, but it also is highly curable when detected and treated early. About 23,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. Melanoma is also related to exposure to ultraviolet light but not as directly as nonmelanoma skin cancers. Older Americans should be alert for changes in the size or color of a mole or rapid darkening, ulceration or scaliness or changes in the shape or outline of a mole, or development of a new pigmented lesion or bulge in a normal skin area. These are some of the most common signs that may signal melanoma, and a doctor should be consulted without delay.

The American Academy of Dermatology and other dermatologic organizations are committed to educating the public about all types of skin cancers. This year marks the Second Annual National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Program, a coordinated national effort of professional dermatologic organizations to reduce the increasing incidence of skin cancers and to better control these cancers by prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week of May 26 through June 1, 1986, as Older Americans Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Week, and I invite all Americans to observe the week with appropriate programs and activities.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and tenth.


[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 11:21 a.m., May 22, 1986]
Citation: John Woolley and Gerhard Peters,The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web:

I found it interesting that, even though 21 years have passed since this proclamation was issued, skin cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in America and across the globe. And melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased by nearly 6000% in past 50+ years. Truly, this is cause for alarm. We need more resources, more education, and research, and more attention dedicated to the prevention and eventual eradication of this unneccessary epidemic.

There is, indeed, still much work to be done!!!

That said, I want to express my thanks to the Governors who have called me in response to my request to declare celebrations of Skin Cancer Awareness month, in every state across the nation, throughout the month of May. Thanks, also, to the local city mayors here in Utah who have issued declarations in their respective communities - Provo, Orem, Kayesville/Fruit Heights, Murray, and Cedar City, Utah. This is of particular significance since Utah's risk for skin cancer is the highest in the nation.

Thank you to all of you who are devoting time, talents, and energy toward raising awareness and educating others about this common, yet preventable disease! Thank you! Let us continue to combine forces and work together to crusade against skin cancer.

To learn more about skin cancer prevention and to find a melanoma foundation nearest you, check out ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Skin Cancer Programs and Resources available on


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