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‘Play Safe’ still shines: WDS program garners new funding, targets more sports enthusiasts


National report - The news is bright for the Women’s Dermatologic Society’s Play Safe in the Sun campaign.

National report

- The news is bright for the Women’s Dermatologic Society’s Play Safe in the Sun campaign.

Launched in March 2004 as a sun safety outreach program focused on people who play and watch golf, the program now has new funding and targets not only golfing but also tennis enthusiasts.

"So many exciting and important inroads have been made in 2008 to build on the success of our past four years of community outreach through the WDS Play Safe in the Sun campaign," says WDS President Suzanne M. Connolly, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic, Phoenix.

"Earlier this year, we received a generous three-year grant from L'Oréal USA to reach out to outdoor enthusiasts to spread the message of sun safety and skin cancer prevention," she says. "We have already completed three very successful events in New Jersey and Maryland [at] LPGA tournaments and [also] in Connecticut, where we broke another national screening record at Kids Day at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament," she said in September.

New campaign casts wider net

The current Play Safe in the Sun campaign, fueled by $1.05 million from L'Oréal USA, promotes sun safety and early skin cancer detection at U.S. professional golf and tennis tournaments. The campaign debuted in May 2008 at the LPGA Sybase Classic in New Jersey and at a subsequent LPGA tournament in Maryland.

In August, volunteers made their first foray into the world of professional tennis at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven, Conn.

WDS members Mona Gohara, M.D., and Sumaira Aasi, M.D., both Yale University faculty members, co-chaired this first outreach to tennis players and fans. According to WDS, the volunteer dermatologists achieved a one-day record of 147 skin cancer screenings for attending children and their parents.

New Haven Mayor John DiStefano Jr. declared a "Play Safe in the Sun" Day in the city in recognition of the WDS event.

Two additional events are on the 2008 calendar: one scheduled at the LPGA’s Samsung World Championship in Half Moon Bay, Calif., early in October, and the other at the ADT Championship in West Palm Beach, Fla., in November, according to Dr. Connolly.

WDS, she says, continues to raise the bar on the numbers of tour players, caddies, members of the media and fans that volunteers screen for skin cancer.

"We see from the significant overall referral average of 35 percent that we are providing a much-needed community service," she says.

2008 statistics show program results

Play Safe in the Sun statistics for the first three months of the outreach season, from May to August 2008, detail the WDS achievements:

  • Total skin cancer screenings: 596
  • Overall average referred for further diagnosis/biopsy: 35 percent
  • Total sun damage assessments: 77
  • Total WDS dermatologist volunteers: 33
  • Other volunteers: 21
  • Total media members, LPGA players and caddies screened: 119
  • Total samples of sunscreen distributed: 52,000
  • Total number of mayoral proclamations: 3
  • Total number of media impressions: 63 million

Dr. Connolly, who will remain at the WDS helm until March 2008, when Wendy Roberts, M.D., will become president, says the program’s accomplishments are aligned with the organization’s mission in many ways.

"It is all about education and outreach," she says. "As an organization, the WDS greatly values volunteer service in the communities where we work and live. Play Safe in the Sun has activated our membership to get involved and make a difference!"

She adds that Play Safe in the Sun promotes dermatology’s messages of skin cancer prevention and sun safety to outdoor sports enthusiasts who are particularly vulnerable.

"Through our outreach, WDS members are able to take dermatology outside of the office, and help bring to life important skin health messages," she says. "Through our communications to the public and through the media, we are able to heighten awareness about sun safety, and help people better understand how to lead the sun-safe life."

Scanner reveals deeper truth about sun damage

WDS planned to introduce a formal program at the October LPGA tournament to measure the impact of the sun damage assessments the organization offers.

For the formal assessments program, designed by Dr. Marie-France Demierre and Dr. Suephy Chen of Boston University, trained residents and dermatologists planned to administer questionnaires to people before allowing them to view their skin through a DermaScan (UV-reflectance; Cortex Technology, Denmark) unit.

Then, they planned to ask the same questions after consumers viewed their skin under ultraviolet light and with a magnifying mirror.

The purpose is to measure whether there will be a change in behavior once people have seen their sun damage using the DermaScan unit. The device was to be rolled out at the tournament at the LPGA’s Samsung World Championship at Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Dr. Connolly says the WDS National Service Committee is in the process of researching suitable 2009 U.S. golf and tennis events at which to offer Play Safe in the Sun screenings.

Dermatologists (including men) who wish to become involved in WDS outreach activities can learn about volunteer options at www.womensderm.org and at www.playsafeinthesun.org.They also can contact WDS by e-mail at wds@womensderm.org.


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