March 10, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

Each spring for the past 10 years Atlanta softball enthusiasts have gathered to celebrate the memory of one of their own. In 1988, 29-year-old Zachary Brown, who loved playing softball, lost his battle against malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Through the game Zachary loved, his friends and family now annually celebrate his memory while offering hope and support to other melanoma patients.

The Zachary Brown Memorial Softball Classic, held each year during melanoma month, has been growing steadily in popularity over the past decade. This year on Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, more than 100 teams from the Southeast are expected to participate in the two-day event. Featuring both league teams and "pick-up" teams, the tournament will take place at Decatur's Softball Country Club Sportsplex.

Proceeds benefit cancer research in the Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Center at Emory University's Winship Cancer Center, where Zachary was treated for melanoma. In response to the significant increase in the number of melanoma cases diagnosed at Emory in recent years, the Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Center was established in 1994 to combine research, patient care, prevention education and physician training in a multidisciplinary program including dermatology and surgical and medical oncology.

Over the past 20 years the rate of deaths from melanoma has risen an alarming 60 percent - more than any other kind of cancer. More than 40,300 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 1997 and approximately 7,300 people will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. And although the risk for many kinds of cancer increases with increasing age, the median age for patients with melanoma is in the early 40s.

Because skin cancer is one of the few cancers amenable to primary prevention, Emory physicians educate patients and their families on how to limit sun exposure while still enjoying the outdoors. Barbara Rock, M.D., director of the center, stresses the importance of early detection and treatment for skin cancer. "The earlier a problem can be discovered," says Dr. Rock, "the better the chance for a cure. As the disease progresses, treatment becomes more complex, with advanced cases sometimes necessitating removal of lymph nodes, extensive surgery and/or systemic therapy."

Individuals who have had one melanoma lesion are at a greatly increased risk of developing another, making sun-safe behaviors particularly important for this group. Family members of patients also are encouraged to have moles or other suspicious areas checked regularly.

Education about skin protection is essential for children because sunburns in childhood substantially increase the chance of developing melanoma later in life. Almost 80 percent of one's total lifetime sun exposure is estimated to occur during childhood up to 18 years of age. Other risk factors include a light complexion, a tendency to freckle or burn, blond or red hair, blue eyes, family history of the disease, multiple moles and large, abnormal or persistently changing moles or pigmented lesions.

Patients treated at the Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Center are followed closely, and those with large numbers of abnormal moles are photographed on their initial visit so changes will be observed and treated promptly. Warning signs that a mole might be malignant include a sudden or continuous enlargement, a change in the mole's surface, asymmetry, irregular borders, uneven coloring, or diameter greater than 6 millimeters in diameter. Clinical and basic science research is an important component of the Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Center. Multicenter clinical trials for melanoma are currently under way, and new protocols continue to be developed.

This year's softball classic will feature a silent auction of coveted sports items on Friday evening as well as games by non-league teams. On Saturday morning play begins for league teams and continues throughout the day and evening. Free skin cancer screenings will be offered by Emory physicians. League teams who wish to register should call the Softball Country Club at 404/299-3588. Non-league teams should call Dr. Carl Washington at Emory at 404/778-3355.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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