WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) today received the Shade Foundation of America’s 2010 Rays of Hope Award. The award, presented by Shade Foundation creator Shonda Schilling and her husband Curt, recognizes members of Congress who have led the fight to eradicate melanoma and advance skin cancer prevention and detection capabilities

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award from the Shade Foundation, and specifically Shonda and Curt Schilling, who have been incredible advocates for melanoma research and prevention,” Dent explained. “Melanoma impacts far too many families in the United States. Until this disease is cured, I’ll continue to work to improve its prevention and detection.”

Dent was recognized for his achievement in establishing funding through the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program to study the connection between melanoma and military deployments. In Congress, Dent has been the leading advocate for increased research in this field, understanding that American troops serving in Middle East have a much greater risk of contracting the disease due to increased sun exposure and intensity in the region.

Dent has also sponsored bipartisan legislation, the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act, which would require the FDA to examine the device classification and warning label requirements for tanning beds to ensure that consumers are clearly and effectively informed of the health risks associated with their use.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Each year more than 1 million people are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer, affecting more people than prostate, breast, colorectal and cervical cancers combined. Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. More than 60,000 Americans develop melanoma annually and an estimated 8,000 Americans die each year from melanoma. Every eight minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed and melanoma claims the life of one American every hour. However, if caught early, melanoma can be removed and monitored. Early detection is the key. The median lifespan for patients with advanced melanoma is less than one year, whereas, the survival rate can exceed 90 to 95 percent in early stage melanoma.