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Outrun the sun

IUPUI employee organizes an evening race to benefit melanoma research

Competitors prepare for the children's race at the 2005 Outrun the Sun Run/Walk in downtown Indianapolis.

In August 2002, Anita Day lost two people who were very close to her. Her father, John Busse, age 79, and a friend, Gary Patton, age 40, passed away within 11 days of each other from a disease Day initially knew little about.

Nearly four years after their passing, Day has been working to ensure that more people know about melanoma -- the disease that took Busse and Patton's lives. Day, the marketing director at the Herron School of Art and Design, and her sister, Jonna MacDougall, assistant dean at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, teamed up with friends Jennifer Patton and Marci Reddick to create Outrun the Sun Inc. All four women are Indiana University graduates. Their organization works to promote awareness of melanoma and raises money for melanoma research. Day knows firsthand what it is like to watch someone battle the cancer after watching her father and her friend succumb to it, and she does not want to see others walk the same path.

"It's a road filled with fear, frustration and eventual hopelessness," she said.

On her Web site, Day wrote why she was inspired to launch Outrun the Sun: "When you lose two people to melanoma within 11 days of one another, there is no question that you feel a calling to do all you can to channel your energies against this disease." For a firsthand account of her experience, follow this link:

Day said people are not as aware of melanoma as they are other cancers. It's a cancer that can affect anyone -- all ages and races. There is a common misconception that only fair-skinned people are prone to skin cancer. She said there are several types of melanoma, including one that more commonly affects people with darker skin tones including African Americans. A goal of Outrun the Sun Inc. is to educate people about the dangers of skin cancer as well as tell them how to detect and prevent it.

Outrun the Sun Inc. is the only nonprofit organization in Indiana dedicated solely to melanoma awareness and medical research. The inaugural run/walk last year raised nearly $60,000, and Day hopes to raise more this year for the organization's research and education award programs. A review panel comprised of physicians, two from Indiana and two from outside the state, reviews proposals and makes recommendations to the board in regard to award recipients.

"What we're looking for in terms of the research scholar program is young investigators who show great promise in melanoma research," Day said. "Melanoma is different than some cancers because there aren't any treatments that are effective on a consistent basis. That is one reason it is crucial that more research funding be put toward these initiatives."

Day said research has shown that a high percentage of melanoma cases diagnosed annually can be attributed to prolonged exposure to the sun, but there could also be a variety of other factors. A very high percentage of other skin cancers are a direct result of overexposure to the sun. Outrun the Sun Inc. recommends that everyone be safe when outdoors. Day wears sunscreen daily.

"Our message is be safe, be smart -- it's your health you're dealing with," she said. "There are a lot of people who want to be tanned from the sun. If you have ever seen someone lose a life to melanoma, you wouldn't want to risk overexposure to the sun. It's not worth your life."

Not only are Day, MacDougall, Patton and Redick hosting the run/walk each year, but they also distribute materials that address melanoma and what precautions can be taken. They have received requests to go out into the community and speak at companies and schools, sharing the information with people. "From a clinical standpoint, we can't cure people but we can help them through outreach, and that's important," Day said. Outrun the Sun Inc. also offers a melanoma support group to patients and families.

Participate in this year's run/walk and help raise money for melanoma research
Each year the organization sponsors the "Outrun the Sun Run/Walk" in downtown Indianapolis. The 5-mile run, 5K walk, and 1-mile fun walk begin and end on the campus of IUPUI, and the route moves along the White River Canal in downtown Indianapolis. The 2006 event will begin at 7 p.m. on June 3 and will benefit melanoma education and research. Register in advance online at or by obtaining a printed registration form available at fitness centers and running stores. Pre-registration is $17 before May 28, then increases to $20. Registration and packet pick-up takes place on June 2 at the IUPUI Natatorium from 4 to 7 p.m. Pre-registration also will occur from 5 to 7 p.m. on race day. Day said they welcome teams of people as well as individuals. All groups of 10 or more can receive an entry fee of $15 (pre-registration only). Post-race festivities include live music, pizza, frozen custard, kids' races, fireworks and more. Entrants will receive a T-shirt, bib number, and Champion Chip for competitive timing.

How to apply for the Research Scholar and Education/Outreach Awards
The Outrun the Sun Inc. Research Scholar Award recognizes a promising scientific researcher for work in melanoma research and is open to investigators nationally. Two Outrun the Sun Inc. Education and Outreach Awards are presented to Indiana organizations for the creation of projects geared toward students in grades K-12 that build greater understanding of the risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers. Each of the three $10,000 awards will be distributed in May. For more information about Outrun the Sun Inc. programs, please visit