Their organization’s mission is to put themselves out of business

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“It’s just skin cancer.” That statement is probably the single biggest misconception about melanoma. The summer season presents an opportunity to not only debunk this common myth but to pledge to take action against melanoma throughout the year with efforts such as practicing skin protection. While melanoma is a type of skin cancer, it is skin cancer in its most villainous form.

It isn’t every day that an organization is created with the sole purpose of putting itself out of business. But that was the goal when Debra and Leon Black established the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) in 2007. Founded by a melanoma survivor and her husband, our mission is simple: find a cure for melanoma. Melanoma is more easily treated if caught early—before it spreads or metastasizes—but for people diagnosed with advanced melanoma the prognosis is generally much worse. 

We know that the best way to stop melanoma is to prevent it from starting at all, and that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is the single most preventable risk factor for developing melanoma. A tan is actually your skin’s response to being damaged from UV radiation, and sunburn exacerbates the damage and can lead to cellular mutations that contribute to the development of melanoma. Despite these facts, many people happily spend hours in the sun without any sort of protection, use indoor tanning equipment, or accept that a nasty sunburn is a routine part of every family vacation. 

To combat exposure to dangerous UV rays, MRA encourages people to use SPF 30+ sunscreen 365 days a year, to wear wide-brimmed hats, to utilize sun-protective clothing, and to seek shade during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are most intense. When it comes to early detection, we have an advantage over many other types of cancer. Melanoma usually starts on the skin’s surface, where it can be seen by the naked eye.  Skin checks—both self-administered and conducted by professionals—can help detect melanoma and save lives. 


Pay attention to changes in your skin.  If you spot anything that exhibits the ABCDEs, MRA recommends you consult a healthcare professional

A -   Asymmetry

B -   Border irregularity

C -   Color changes

D -   Diameter larger than a pencil eraser

E -   Evolving in appearance

This May, we kicked off an ongoing awareness and research collaboration with L’Oréal Paris, called a Thunderclap campaign: more than 2,700 people took action by simultaneously broadcasting the same message of melanoma awareness and prevention around the world through their Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts, reaching more than 7.2 million people. 

I hope that you will join us in pledging to have a safe sun summer by helping your families take precautions to reduce your risk for melanoma. Who knows, you may just help put MRA out of business!

About the Melanoma Research Alliance

MRA is unique among nonprofits because the generosity of their founders allows them to devote 100% of the funds they raise to scientific research. They competitively award grants to programs investigating ways to better treat, diagnose, and prevent melanoma. They have funded research in 14 countries around the world and encourage collaboration among all stakeholders, from foundations to industry to academia to government. Catalyzing the development of better treatments for all melanoma patients is their focus, but treatment is only part of the battle against melanoma.

For more information on MRA, melanoma prevention, and our melanoma awareness activities, please visit their website at

*Note: the opinions expressed in the links above are not those of GSK. GSK is not responsible for, and accepts no liability for, any information or opinions contained on these third-party sites.