Skin of Steel in the News

4th Annual Susan Steel Memorial Fall Walk

Rainy Day Doesn’t Deter Walkers – 4th Annual Susan Steel Memorial Fall Walk

Glenview Lantern

October 17, 2019

3:00 am CDT October 15, 2019

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Protect the Protectors

Wilmette firefighters learn about melanoma dangers at Protect the Protectors

Wilmette Beacon

March 22, 2019

5:00 am CDT March 22, 2019

Firefighters have an obvious occupational hazard: they risk their lives in dangerous situations like running into burning buildings and carrying heavy hoses up steep ladders; but they also have an increased risk for several cancer types caused by carcinogens inhaled at fire scenes. In several recent studies, an increased incidence of the most fatal type of skin cancer, metastatic melanoma, has also been shown in firefighters and additionally these melanomas are diagnosed at a much earlier age than in the general public.

Skin of Steel, a local non-profit for melanoma awareness and research, hosted their inaugural Protect the Protectors event on March 18 at the Wilmette firehouse. Dr. Alka Madan, of Pinnacle Dermatology in Crystal Lake and Barrington, screened more than 20 people (firefighters, police officers and some spouses) in three hours to check for skin cancer. Madan’s team graciously offered their time and expertise in hopes of promoting early detection of skin cancer and referred several people for follow-up after identifying suspicious lesions. They used the SPOTme program provided by the American Academy of Dermatology who tracks skin screenings for research. Pinnacle Dermatology is based out of Lombard with 29 practices and 46 providers across the Midwest.

Wilmette Fire Chief Ben Wozney and Police Chief Kyle Murphy were excited about the program and hope to host another event for crews that weren’t able to attend. Many of those who came in for screening reported that inconvenience is a hindrance keeping them from seeing a dermatologist. Several others had never had a skin screening before. The AAD and Skin of Steel recommend yearly skin cancer screenings as a preventive measure in addition to checking your own skin every month. Early detection of stage 1 melanoma has a 98 percent cure rate, whereas survival rates significantly decrease for patients when the disease has spread to other organs. According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, the incidence of melanoma has increased steadily in the past 30 years with a projected estimate of 96,000 new melanomas diagnosed in 2019 and about one melanoma death every hour in the US.

In advance of spring break vacations, whether headed to beach, snow or anywhere outside, Skin of Steel hopes to remind everyone of the importance of wearing broad spectrum (UVA & UVB) sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher (reapplying every 2 hours), wearing hats, sunglasses, protective clothing and seeking shade during peak UV ray times of 10 a.m.-4 p.m. At the event, Pinnacle gave out shot glasses representing the amount (1 ounce) of sunscreen that should be used every time you apply sunscreen to your full body.

Skin of Steel has a Junior Auxiliary Board composed of high school students from New Trier, Loyola, Regina, and other North Shore schools. Its 4th annual Spyn of Steel fundraiser is on May 15 at Spynergy in Winnetka. Skin of Steel primarily fundraises for an International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium with San Francisco-based partner AIM at Melanoma. One of the four US sites is here at Northwestern University, under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Wayne, Chief of Surgical Oncology, specializing in melanoma and also a Wilmette resident. The goal of the tissue bank is to collect 500 fresh-frozen melanoma tissue specimens that will retain the RNA and DNA, with full annotation and additional urine and blood samples, for research revealing new biomarkers and better personalized treatments in melanoma. To find out more, visit

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Second Annual Fall Walk Raises $30k

Second Annual Walk Raises $30k for Melanoma Foundation

Glenview Lantern

Oct 9, 2017

Second annual walk raises $30K for melanoma foundation

Trevor Byrnes, Megan Hoying and Natalie Byrnes participate in the second annual Walk of Steel on Oct. 1 along the West Fork River Trail. Sarah Haider/22nd Century Media.

Sarah Haider, Freelance Reporter
2:27 pm CDT October 9, 2017
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Susan Steel — a Glenview resident, mother, wife and friend — passed away after a long battle with melanoma in 2016. More than 10 months later, her greatest battle still carries on, continuing in the footsteps of her loved ones at the second annual Walk of Steel on Oct. 1 along the West Fork River Trail. 
“We gather together to celebrate the lives that melanoma cut short,” Stephen Sullivan, a Skin of Steel board member, told the crowd during the event. “We celebrate the melanoma survivors. We celebrate you and your effort to move forward and, more importantly, to being so supportive of the research efforts underway.”
The walk coincided with what would have been Steel’s 59th birthday and her 28th anniversary with her husband, Masuo Ishida, who also spoke at the event.
One-hundred percent of the more than $30,000 collected from the walk was donated to the Skin of Steel foundation. The nonprofit was founded in 2010 by Steel and her executive board to provoke a “revolutionary personal, behavioral and institutional change in dealing with melanoma” and create the first-ever national, collaborative melanoma tissue bank. The bank will collect biopsied, fresh, frozen primary melanoma tissues, providing the infected skin to advance medical research and improve treatment outcomes.
“It is a big deal,” said Katherine Byrnes, the foundation’s executive director. “We have doubled melanoma diagnoses in the last 30 years. Doubled. Melanoma is a small fraction of skin cancer, but it’s the most deadly. To have 10,000 people die in the U.S. this year, that’s a huge problem. Researching and funding and awareness needs to amp it up.”
Byrnes, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2006, is a survivor. She became involved with the organization as a board member after being told about its work by Sullivan. She became the foundation’s executive director in Spring 2017. Although Byrnes never met Steel, their common passion for finding a cure connects her to the cause.
“Most people get a diagnosis and they’re like, ‘Eh.’ They don’t want to think about it. They kind of want to put it out of their head. But [Steel] had to live with it and deal with it for 11 years,” Byrnes said. “This [event] represents her because she would have loved for people to come out, and raising thousands of dollars for the tissue bank is amazing.”
Tripp Lane, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, is also an 11-time melanoma survivor. Today, he uses his experience with atypical melanoma to bring awareness of the cancer to anyone who will listen, as well as help others through the diagnosis. Steel’s journey with melanoma became a source of courage for his own.
“Susan was absolutely my inspiration,” Lane said. “She survived 10 years with numerous metastases. Most people don’t survive 10 months, let alone 10 years. She was incredible. It was her courage and determination.” 
Students from Glenbrook South, Glenbrook North, New Trier and Regina were also present to show their support at the walk. 2017 marked the second year in a row that the Glenbrook South girls varsity tennis team committed to the walk. The team coordinated a bake sale at the school, published a Go Fund Me page and collected pledges, raising more than $500 as of Oct. 1.
“Every year we do the Skin of Steel walk because we are out in the sun all of the time, so keeping us safe is really important and I feel like this is a cause that doesn’t get a lot of attention even though it should,” GBS girls tennis captain Rachel Schwartz said. “We are bringing attention to it and showing that we care and we are trying to help out the cause as much as possible.”
Each of the schools that were represented at the walk also have a student that serves on the foundation’s junior auxiliary board, which works together to spread awareness and further the organization.
“This was Susan’s goal, not just a dream,” Lane said. “A dream is a dream, but a goal is a dream with plans, and she always had this goal of starting a tissue bank.”
For more information on the foundation, visit

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