Hike the eighth wonder of the world! Fundraiser in Patagonia supports AAD’s skin cancer programs

Register now for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

In 2014, Ellen Marmur, MD, launched the AAD’s Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! initiative by leading a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, which raised more than $150,000 for the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer program. In 2017, Dr. Marmur invites AAD members, their staff, and their patients to join a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile, Jan. 20-29, 2017.

Recently voted the eighth wonder of the world, Torres del Paine is one of the world's most spectacular national parks. The 46-mile fundraising hike of the park’s famed “W” trek, which will include private guides, porters, cooks, and entertainment, will support AAD’s SPOT Skin Cancer program as well as advocacy efforts to combat skin cancer.

All hikers must raise and/or donate a minimum of $8,500 to participate in the hike. All trip expenses are included in the donation, except for the round-trip flight to Chile. Donations will be used to educate the public about how to prevent and detect skin cancer, provide access to free skin cancer screenings, build shade structures in our communities, and advocate for skin cancer prevention laws.

M2M: Why did you choose Patagonia for this year's hike?

Dr. marmurDr. Marmur: First of all, it's beautiful, exotic, and amazing. It will be so much fun and fascinating. Our first Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! event at Mount Kilimanjaro was to show that UV is more intense with altitude. Patagonia is not at a high altitude, but it's where scientists have been watching a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica develop. There are reports of increased levels of blindness and skin cancer in the sheep in southern Argentina and Chile due to ozone depletion.
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Our skin is the only organ that interacts with the environment directly. My mission is to educate the public that our environment has a directly impact on skin health and we need to up our game in protecting our skin and improve our understanding of the environment. This Patagonia hike is really about how the ozone and pollution in our every day life can impact the health of our skin.

M2M: What should people know about the physical requirements of the hike?

Dr. Marmur: This is a much different hike than our Kilimanjaro hike. Altitude is not an issue with this hike and it won’t be nearly as grueling. If you're not in top physical condition you can still do the trip. You can hike as much as you want, but also take a day off to recover if you need to. We'll have a van with us to transport anyone who needs a break.

M2M: What do you expect to be the highlights of the trip?

Dr. Marmur: We're going to learn a lot from the local guides about Patagonia and the local environment, which will be edifying and enriching. We're also going to learn about how the atmosphere is affecting our skin. It will be a time to be peaceful and meditative in a beautiful environment.

It will be enriching on so many levels. There's nothing quite like having an entire team together driving for the same goal. I think that inspires our patients and our communities on a grassroots level. I've had so many patients who were inspired by our first Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! event, and are spreading the word about the importance of skin protection. That's what we want. We want everyone to spread the word about how to protect our skin.

The trip to Patagonia gives us the opportunity to spread the message that just because you’re in a colder environment, you can’t skip skin protection. We always assume that it's only at the beach that you need skin protection. But we’ll demonstrate that even in colder mountain ranges, we’re still at risk. Also, it will educate the public that when you don't have that ozone layer to capture the UV rays, you're at an increased risk of UV damage.

M2M: Can parents bring their kids on the hike?

Dr. Marmur: The hike is open to everyone! I'm going to bring my 13-year-old. I think any child who can be patient enough to walk for 6 to 8 hours can participate. It will be a lot of fun. We'll listen to music; stop for a nice lunch. It really won't be grueling. The march will be slow and steady. It would be a great bonding experience between parents and their kids.

M2M: For those who can't make the trip, how can they contribute?

Dr. Marmur: I'm asking my entire staff to work together as a team to fund raise to send one of our staff members on the trip.

So, get your staff involved. Or make it a community effort and raise the funds to send a patient who has had skin cancer or who has had a loved one with skin cancer. All you have to do is raise $8,500 to honor a staff memeber or patient by giving them this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you can't come and can't send a staff member or a patient, you can hold a local Skin Cancer, Take A Hike! at the same time as the Patagonia hike and link it to our effort in Chile. That would be really fun for us because it would motivate us to know that people all around the world are doing hikes during the time that we're far away from our families.

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