TRENTON, N.J. – Today, the Assembly approved a resolution designating May as New Jersey’s Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month and dedicating the first Monday of the month to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a melanoma survivor, sponsors the resolution.
“At the age of 25 I was a law school student and I was diagnosed with melanoma,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen.) “I paid the ultimate price for using tanning beds in my teens, which were marketed as safe alternatives to the sun. Never did I expect that from using tanning beds I would be diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of malignant melanoma.”
A spot on Schepisi’s leg turned out to be melanoma. Schepisi has since undergone surgeries for removal of two other forms of less deadly skin cancers, the most recent occurring just last month.
Approximately 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but the most dangerous – making up the majority of skin cancer deaths. In 2019, it is estimated there will be 96,480 new cases of melanoma in the U.S. and 7,230 deaths from the disease. New Jersey will account for 2,850 of the new cases and 180 of the deaths.
“I am one of the lucky ones,” said Schepisi. “Ninety-nine percent of melanomas that are detected early can be cured; whereas, if the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body by the time of diagnosis, the survival rate drops to 20 percent.”
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. People can greatly reduce their chances of developing skin cancer by practicing sun-safe habits like wearing sunscreen and protective clothing and avoiding long-term exposure.
“As we prepare for a fun summer down the shore, it can be easy to forget the dangers of the sun,” said Schepisi. “May will now serve as a reminder to take the proper precautions before heading outside. Skin cancer is largely preventable and early detection is key.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for approval.