Kelly Klover of Overland Park knows the statistics all too well: One in five Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
Her husband, Richard, died at age 46 of melanoma. The next year, in 2011, Klover founded Outpacing Melanoma to raise money for research and treatment in the Kansas City area.
“The more I learned about melanoma and how little others knew about it, the more passionate I became to do something about it,” Klover says.
Although melanoma is the easiest cancer to detect, when not diagnosed early it is among the most malignant and incurable cancers because of its extremely aggressive nature.
Her nonprofit organization will sponsor a 5K run/walk to raise money for the cause on Sunday. The next day, the Midwest Cancer Alliance will host free melanoma screenings at the Medical Office Building, adjacent to the University of Kansas Hospital. The cancer alliance is the outreach arm of the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Gary Doolittle, KU Cancer Center oncologist and the medical director of the cancer alliance, shares Klover’s urgency in spreading the word about early detection. Specializing in malignant melanoma and sarcoma, Doolittle says at least half his patients are under age 50.
“Anytime this disease has spread beyond where it started, we have a great challenge in trying to treat it,” Doolittle says. “Early detection results in a better shot at cure. Kelly wanted these dollars to stay local, and that’s how we got together.”
Because chemotherapy does not control this disease well, research is critical.
“We have half a dozen different drugs to treat melanoma when it is metastatic, and we hope two new immunotherapy drugs (targeting a specific mutation causing abnormal cell growth) will be released in the next six months,” Doolittle says.
He recommends wearing hats, protective clothing and sunscreen with SPF of at least 30, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Tanning beds also increase risk (although the unsafe exposure threshold is uncertain), as does unprotected sun exposure during childhood.
Klover started Outpacing Melanoma to encourage research locally and public awareness through early detection, screening and prevention of melanoma.
“It’s a cancer that doesn’t discriminate,” Klover says. “Early detection is so vital.”