SUNSPORT tries to get athletes to protect their skin

SUNSPORT logoThe most recent issue of Stanford Medicine features a story by MICHAEL CLAEYS of the Stanford Cancer Institute about SUNSPORT, a joint effort of the Athletic Department, Dermatology Department and Cancer Institute.

Claeys writes that the program conducts longitudinal research through annual surveys of Stanford’s nearly 900 student-athletes’ sun-exposure and skin-protection behaviors. SUNSPORT (Stanford University Network for Sun Protection, Organization, Research and Teamwork) also provides annual skin screening for athletes, educational talks to teams and in-depth presentations on sun damage and skin protection for coaches and athletic trainers. The program’s webpage features an emotional video called “Dear 16-Year-Old-Me.”

The Stanford Medicine article grabs the reader by telling the story of 20-year-old ERIK OLSON and his girlfriend, JESSICA TONN.

Claeys writes, “It was the summer of 2012, and Olson and Tonn had just returned from a run — pretty much a daily event for the two Stanford track and field athletes. As usual, Olson was shirtless. By his own account, he had trained every day for six years without a shirt or sunscreen on his back. The blue-eyed blond would lather up his nose and ears to prevent a burn, but his deep mahogany back was his ‘street cred’ in the distance-running community. He’d achieved that tan through relentless training.

“A biopsy showed that Olson had melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Surgery removed the tumor, and examination of his lymph nodes showed it hadn’t yet metastasized. He knew he’d been fortunate, and when he returned to training, Olson was religious about wearing shirts and sunscreen.”

Read more about SUNSPORT’s efforts in Stanford Medicine.