Monday, May 30, 2011

Killer body art

While I’m on the subject of videos, here are links to a couple of public service ads (one and two) that have appeared on the telly in Australia. They take their melanoma dead seriously Down Under, as well they might given that Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest incidence and mortality rates for the disease. I guess they have the ozone hole to thank for that.

You’ll notice that the models in these PSAs are young, which is not just because they’re sexier. Both in Australia and the U.S., melanoma is the most common cancer for people age 15-24. And exposure to UV radiation (sun or tanning beds) is the cause of an estimated two-third of all melanomas. The National Cancer Institute measured a 50% increase in the annual incidence of melanoma among young adult Caucasian women between 1980 and 2004. Use of tanning beds is believed to be a contributing factor.

Connect the dots and you’ll see why we need to get over being squeamish about ads like those that have appeared in Australia for years. This is a preventable disease. If we diverted to prevention just 10% of what we spend on melanoma drug development I believe the incidence of melanoma in the U.S. would plummet. Our priority should be catching melanomas early, not spending billions of dollars later just to give incurable patients an additional few weeks of life. An aggressive advertising campaign like that undertaken in Australia should be part of the plan.

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