One visit with Dr. Joel Cook of the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) Department of Dermatology and you will understand. Melanoma is not just deadly, it is expensive.  As the fifth most expensive cancer to treat, the costs surrounding the disease continue to increase as the patient numbers have risen to more than two million per year.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month and also marks the beginning of The Spa at Charleston Place’s annual “I Will Reflect” Melanoma Awareness and Prevention Initiative. Over the past four years, The Spa has led this effort to bring awareness to the disease, which will effect one in five Americans in the course of a lifetime. With the support of many throughout the Charleston community, the program has raised more than $25,000 for MUSC’s skin cancer research, helping to further many of the advances made by MUSC in the treatment of melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

“We know how important it is to get regular mammograms and to avoid cigarette smoke, but we don’t all necessarily take the same precautions with our skin,” says Annette Sandford-Lopez, Spa Director at The Spa at Charleston Place. “Our community, Charleston in particular, needs to recognize the importance of applying regular sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing, hats and taking other preventative measures to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays. Through “I Will Reflect,” we strive to educate people to have mole screenings performed annually by a dermatologist and to take serious precautions when exposed to the sun.”

Skin cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer, and its victims continue to get younger. Dr. Cook says the answer is simple–avoid the sun during its most glaring hours, 10am-2pm. You expose yourself to 80% less radiation. Run late, walk your dogs early. Tee off at 7am instead of 11am. Make small adjustments in your life that will help you to avoid skin cancer.

“Yes, there have been some exciting recent advances in melanoma treatment, but it is a fractional step compared to the amount of new cases being diagnosed each year,” said Dr. Cook at a recent meeting. “I spend five days a week, 10-12 hours a day operating on skin cancer patients. It is not only expensive for patients, it is disfiguring and, too often, deadly.”

The “I Will Reflect” campaign strives to educate the public about the importance of safe sun habits and the dangers of melanoma and other types of skin cancer. The Spa at Charleston Place will kick-off their fifth annual campaign on ‘Melanoma Monday,’ May 7th, featuring a swimwear fashion show with local fashion designers and retailers. In addition, you can join The Spa for a night of fun and awareness with the Charleston Riverdogs at Dogs for a Cause – “I Will Reflect” Night.

If you’re unable to attend the kickoff party or Riverdog’s game, The Spa encourages you to look at ways to “reflect” on the need to protect your skin this summer, including:

- Wear an “I Will Reflect” bracelet, which glows purple when the wearer’s skin is exposed to dangerous solar rays. Bracelets can be purchased at The Spa at Charleston Place for $3. Every cent of each sale will go to skin cancer research at the Medical University of South Carolina.

- Take care of yourself with an “I Will Reflect” Facial and The Spa at Charleston Place will donate 10% of the cost to the MUSC Foundation. This treatment combines a relaxing facial with sun safety tips and skin checks.

- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen year-round using a minimum of SPF15.

- Seek shade between 10am and 4pm.

- Get screened-schedule an annual full-body skin check with a dermatologist.

To learn more about the “I Will Reflect” campaign, visit The Spa at Charleston Place on Facebook.