News Release

May 4, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Statewide Melanoma Support Group Now Based at UConn Health Center

Patients and Families from All Over Connecticut Are Welcome

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Melanoma is the most serious and most deadly type of skin cancer and disturbingly, it is also the fastest growing. In fact, the percentage of people with melanoma has more than doubled in the last 30 years.

“Melanoma is a devastating disease and can strike in the prime of life,” says Jane Grant-Kels, M.D., dermatologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center and head of the melanoma program. “Melanoma generally begins in the skin, but can spread rapidly to other organs and bones.” The exact cause of all melanomas isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds greatly increases the risk of developing the disease. The good news is that melanoma is highly curable if detected early enough, according to Dr. Grant-Kels.

Donald Looney, a retired social worker from Southington, is one of those who battled the disease and won. He was first diagnosed 12 years ago. “A lot of people don’t want to deal with it once they’ve been diagnosed with melanoma,” says Looney, “they just want to sit back and let the doctor tell them what to do.”

Looney didn’t sit back---he tackled his cancer head-on. After doing a tremendous amount of research he traveled across the country to receive what was then considered an experimental melanoma vaccine. He also dramatically changed his lifestyle. He is now a vegetarian and he exercises and meditates regularly. “Studies have shown, the more people take charge of their health, the better they do,” says Looney.

Looney wants to help others overcome this deadly disease so that is why he has teamed up with Dr. Grant-Kels to start a new Melanoma Support Group for patients, their families and friends. “Recently diagnosed patients need to know there is a group they can turn to who can offer them emotional and educational support,” says Dr. Grant-Kels who plans to lend her support by making speakers of interest available to the group. Oncologists, surgeons, nutritionists and psychiatrists will be invited to speak about the latest treatments and research and answer any questions.

The support group plans to meet every third Wednesday of the month at the Dowling South building conference room at the Health Center from 6:30-8 p.m. The first meeting is scheduled for May 18th. For more information, you can call Donald Looney at 860-621-0534 or Dr. Grant-Kels at 860-679-3474.

May 17th Discovery Series

Malignant melanoma will also be the topic of a Discovery Series program on Tuesday, May 17th at the UConn Health Center. Dr. Grant-Kels will be among a group of experts talking about diagnosis, treatment and the latest research. The Discovery Series is free and begins at 7 p.m. in the Health Center’s Keller Auditorium. Registration is required. Please call 800-535-6232 or 860-679-7692.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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