Dear 16-year-old me


"Watch this video for me! I love you guys!" That's the email my 20-year-old brother sent to my entire family one Saturday afternoon in June. My baby brother, whose usual email content consists of football statistics or homework questions, shocked us all when the link he forwarded directed us to a video about melanoma. Entitled "Dear 16-year-old me" the five-minute film, which features about a dozen real people (read: non-actors) sharing real stories, starts out light, splicing together a few members of the group offering advice to their former 16-year-old selves. From hair guidance to warnings about how the new Star Wars trilogy ruins everything, their recommendations make you laugh and contemplate what you'd want to tell your former self.But then the PSA takes a sharp and somewhat unexpected turn, as it jumps from person to person revealing their physical scars and emotional stories of how melanoma affected their, or a loved one's, lives. Created by The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, the video explains that melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is not only one of the most common cancers affecting young adults today, but also one that could easily be prevented and treated if caught early on. In fact, the 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with early-stage (stage 1) melanoma is greater than 90 percent. However, those diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma have a 5-year survival rate of about 15 to 20 percent, according to results from the 2008 American Joint Committee on Cancer Melanoma Staging Database. And with the National Cancer Institute predicting that more than 70,000 people will be diagnosed this year alone, it's easy to see why the members of the film encourage you, the viewer, to educate yourself, check yourself and share the video in efforts to spread awareness and prevent the deadly disease from spreading. And with more than 2 million views on YouTube, the latter request is clearly being upheld. Assuming that a majority of these views didn't arise from people searching for "melanoma" on YouTube, I was curious just how my not-exactly-news-savvy brother stumbled upon the Canadian organization's video. His response: "I was on Facebook, and it was on my newsfeed with the person describing it as 'never going in a tanning bed again.' So I watched it, because people close to me tan, at least occasionally.""It was intense," he continues. "So I immediately wanted to spread the word to my close ones because I'd never want something like that to happen to y'all. So I sent the e-mail." David Cornfield would be proud. David, the organization's namesake, was 32 when melanoma took its fatal blow. After years of battling the disease, which had gone away and then recurred, David told his wife that he "believed it was their duty to use his story to help others." And that's exactly what Sari, his wife, has done. Founded a short time after David's death, the Fund strives to uphold its mission to decrease melanoma incidence and improve prognosis through education, research and support. The rest of David's heartbreaking story can be found on the organization's website. And as for me? After my thoughtful brother forwarded this onto me, I knew it was my turn to do my part. In addition to posting it on my personal Facebook and Twitter pages, I also messaged it out to the entire CURE staff and am now sending it out to all of you. So I hope you enjoy it and pass it on. You never know who it could end up saving. And remember, no one is immune to skin cancer. "All skin types, regardless of how much color you have to your skin, can get skin cancer," says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in a July 18 Reuters Health article.Taylor Walker, a graduate of the magazine journalism program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is a summer editorial intern with CURE.

Related Videos
Image of a woman with dark brown hair and round glasses wearing pearl earrings.
A man with a dark gray button-up shirt with glasses and cropped brown hair.
Woman with dark brown hair and pink lipstick wearing a light pink blouse with a light brown blazer. Patients should have conversations with their providers about treatments after receiving diagnoses.
Man in a navy suit with a purple tie. Dr. Saby George talks to CURE about how treatment with Opdivo could mitigate disparities in patients with kidney cancer.
Dr. Andrea Apolo in an interview with CURE
Dr. Kim in an interview with CURE