Mayor’s Message is Loud and Clear
The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, is also a skin cancer survivor. As an advocate for raising skin cancer awareness, he declared April 22, 2008 “Sunwise Day” in Boston to remind people that with the warmer weather comes sun responsibility. To commemorate the event, he partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the SHADE Foundation to plant trees, distribute free sunscreen and generate discussions about sun safety. The Prevent Cancer Foundation asked the mayor how he blended his roles as a mayor and a skin cancer survivor.
What steps have you taken to raise awareness of skin cancer in your city?
The most important steps I have taken as Mayor are pushing to raise awareness and ensuring that residents and employees have access to screening. In 1997, I became the first mayor in America to sign an Executive Order granting City of Boston employees up to four hours off per year to use for cancer screenings. We know that early detection of cancer is critical and that many cancers can be effectively treated if detected early. And early detection means early treatment.
What steps do you personally take to reduce your risk of skin cancer?
I’m always outdoors meeting with residents, attending Little League games and enjoying Boston. And when I’m heading outside I make sure to wear sunscreen, and if I ever forget my family quickly reminds me. My busy schedule doesn’t always allow this, but it’s a good idea to schedule indoor events as much as possible during the sun’s peak hours from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. That can also make a difference.
Any advice for people who are feeling lazy and not taking precautions against skin cancer?
I’d say the chance of getting skin cancer is worth taking a few minutes to apply sunscreen and taking a break from the sun. I was lucky. My cancer was caught early and I had a relatively minor surgery. Not everyone is that lucky and everyone should get themselves checked.
How has your experience with skin cancer affected the way you and your city approach skin cancer?
Sometimes it takes a bad thing to happen for people to pay attention. When I had my skin cancer it was all over the news, which was actually a good thing. We got the chance to promote education and urge people to get screened. The more people know about skin cancer the better chance they have to prevent it.
As an elected official and a skin cancer survivor, what role do you play in raising skin cancer awareness in Boston?
When I am asked about my priorities as mayor, I talk about education, public safety and public health. Skin cancer awareness is a subject that captures all three of those. Our goal is to make people more aware of skin cancer, talk with them about how they can prevent it, and work with our agencies to increase our tree canopy and clean our air. In the end, we are making Boston a safer and better city for everyone.