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Larry’s personal story

Larry Kater
I'm a 77-year old, semi-retired graphic designer/photographer who grew up in Southern California and spent my early years living the beach life. Like most of my friends back in the late 50s and 60s, I hung out at the beach every chance I got. Swimming, surfing, and getting tan was a way of life. Baby oil was our oil of choice for getting the darkest tan we could, and my skin was burnt to the point of peeling off on more occasions than I can remember. That was the price one paid for living the beach life with no concerns or knowledge of skin cancer and the long-term effects of being exposed to the sun's UV rays.

In 1992, at the age of 51, I had a sore on my arm than wasn't healing and had a doctor check it out. It turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma—the first of many I would have over the next 27 years. I'm now on a schedule to see my dermatologist three to four times a year to have my skin checked. In the past year, I've had three Mohs surgeries plus several minor surgeries to remove some basal cells.

Using my background in design, marketing, and photography as well as a knowledge of the beach life and experiences with skin cancers, I started the Skin Cancer Awareness Project/SCAP to try and reach some of the 58.4 million people who will go to a beach this year in the United States. Around 8 million people go to Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) in California each year and another 16 million will go to Venice Beach, also in California. That's a lot of exposed skin.

With nearly 20 Americans dying from melanoma every day, more needs to be done than just telling people to slop on the sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, stay in the shade, and wear protective clothing. If you've ever walked on a beach in southern California on a hot summer day, you can see that this is not working very well, and more needs to be done.

A behavioral/attitude change needs to take place, not just for the people exposing their skin to the sun, but also those who are involved in skin cancer prevention. People are going to go to the beach and they're going to expose their skin to the sun. Many will become the one in five who develops skin cancer...some may become one of those that dies every hour from melanoma. Presently, I'm (SCAP) developing some new educational, promotional, and marketing concepts that target some of those 58.4 million beach goers. My (SCAP) resources are limited, but I'm doing what I can to reach my target audience and spread the word about practicing sun safety while at the beach.