David Cornfield Melanoma Fund: Leading the Charge on Melanoma Awareness
It’s not often that a local, grassroots charity goes viral on the internet. The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund of Canada did just that with their Dear 16-year old Me awareness campaign video, with over 10 million views to date. The video has now reached its 10th anniversary, has been viewed in 215 countries, and most importantly has been credited for saving lives.
David was 29 when he was diagnosed with melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer with 8,000 new cases in Canada in 2020. Although melanoma has a 90% 5-year survival rate across all stages of melanoma, if the disease metastasizes, the survival rate falls to 27%. Throughout his battle with melanoma, David never gave up on life. He worked his way up to Partner at Canada’s largest accounting firm while in and out of hospitals. He proceeded through the necessary treatments, including surgery and radiation, while still maintaining his sense of humour and charm. In his last weeks, David expressed his wish to have his story told and for his legacy to live on in the form of helping others and spreading awareness about melanoma.
Prevention is Key
While melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers, it is also one of the most preventable. When detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 99%. That’s where the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund steps in. Led by Danielle Paterson, their mission is to save lives by raising awareness, promoting prevention, and supporting research. They are a global voice for melanoma prevention and a Canadian Leader in the space. Danielle is incredibly proud of the reach and impact the DCMF has had and was enthusiastic to share more about the organization with us.
“I'm proud that as a small, grassroots organization that we've been able to send our message far and wide and empower people, protect people, and raise awareness on what we think is a disease that can be conquered. I’m proud of our founders who, in their grief, rallied together to honour David's wish and continue to say ‘We’re not giving up’. We've had some really high-profile successes, but we're not done. “
– Danielle Paterson, Executive Director
The primary cause of melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. DCMF is determined to empower people to reduce their risk of melanoma through sun protection. Their main prevention program is #BeSunSafe in partnership with the City of Toronto, Shoppers Drug Mart and the Douglas Wright Foundation. Since 2017, the #BeSunSafe program has offered sunscreen dispensers throughout Toronto waterfront parks and tents for City of Toronto campers. This award-wining program has not only provided sunscreen to 250,000 Torontonians and shade for Toronto’s campers, it has also served as a powerful sun protection awareness campaign for Ontario.
Supporting Excellence in Melanoma Research
Within the research sphere, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award for Research was created in 2015 and jointly funded by the University of Toronto in David’s memory. This is a $100,000 endowed award granted annually to researchers that demonstrate excellence in melanoma research. The award is available to fellows and residents in the Department of Medicine and to graduate students at the Dana Lana Schools of Public Health at the University of Toronto. The most recent winner in 2020 was Dr. Paola Arteaga who investigates response rates to treatments for intraocular (uveal) melanoma.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a newfound sense of urgency surrounding melanoma awareness has arisen. A recent survey of over 700 dermatologists from 36 countries demonstrated that approximately 21% of melanoma cases were not diagnosed due to missed doctor’s appointments in 2020. This is compounded by the fact that people are spending more time outdoors due to the more flexible work-from-home lifestyle and worldwide lockdowns of indoor activities.
Skin Cancer Awareness Month
May is Melanoma Awareness Month and DCMF is taking new action to combat melanoma. ‘STOP Melanoma’ is a bold campaign to reduce new cases of melanoma to zero in Canada. By raising awareness, enhancing prevention and investing in prevention research, DCMF aims to stop melanoma before it begins.
If you felt inspired by this article, please consider getting involved in one of the following ways:
1. DONATE to STOP Melanoma
2. REGISTER to fundraise and become a STOP Melanoma Champion
3. SHARE your #STOPMelanoma hand photos
4. Visit dcmf.ca to learn more
5. Follow DCMF on social media to hear about their ongoing work:
• Instagram: @dcmfcanada
• Facebook: @DCmelanomafund
• Twitter: @DCMFCanada
• LinkedIn: David Cornfield Melanoma Fund