Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"The Big C", First and Last Viewing

Showtime premiered their new series yesterday with Laura Linney playing the role of Cathy Jamison, a woman that is dealing with stage 4 melanoma skin cancer. In my wife's and my opinion, it was a bust. Both of us felt very uncomfortable throughout the 30 minute program. Watching a cancer patient deal with a dysfunctional family, including the husband, son, and brother, was disturbing at best. There is also the sad situation where Cathy was not comfortable sharing her diagnosis with any of her family. The only relationship she seemed to have, was a professional one, with the young dermatologist that made the original diagnosis.  

As a couple that have both dealt with melanoma skin cancer, although not at stage 4, we felt that Cathy could be either one of us if we stop paying attention to any of our moles or skin spots. Should we ever be faced with a similar diagnosis, we would hope that we would be much more comfortable involving our family and friends from a support and communication standpoint. 

We will find much better ways to spend our time other than watching "The Big C"– like watering the lawn, pulling weeds, doing dishes...


Sunday, August 15, 2010

"The Big C" - What Do You Think?

Tomorrow evening is the Showtime premier of "The Big C" with the star dealing with malignant melanoma cancer. Both my wife and I are survivors of this terrible disease. As part of our advocacy efforts, we both plan on watching at least some of the show to see what emotions are triggered. You are invited to share your thoughts as well!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Fritzsword Update

I apologize to everyone that it has been quite a long time since the last posting on Fritzsword. Stay tuned for a "new" approach coming soon. While we will still work hard to expand the awareness of the dangers of tanning beds, I will address a variety of topics that I hope you will find interesting based upon some of my unique life experiences.

Thank you for your patience,


Friday, April 30, 2010

Tanning Bed Services Are Eroding Public Trust


Trust is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a “firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing".

Gone are the days when we could count on our fellow American to consistently do the right thing when faced with a situation that could mean life or death for a person being threatened with physical violence, or maybe, the victim is just lying in the street breathing what would turn out to be their last breaths. Recent events in Seattle and New York are disturbing where public employees in Seattle stood by and watched while a person was severely beaten, and in New York, where a good Samaritan came to the assistance of a woman being mugged, only to be stabbed himself and left to die on the street while people walked by, looked at the victim with interest, and then continued on their merry way. There was even one onlooker who stopped, only to take a picture of this dying man, without calling for help or showing even the slight bit of compassion for the man bleeding to death.

Why then, do we need to be personally affected by a harmful situation or lose a loved one or maybe even a good friend before we stand up and take action? One of my favorite singer/songwriter’s is Bob Dylan and I think often about a verse from his song, “Blowin’ in the Wind”: “how many years must a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?” This verse only seems to become more relevant with time.

We are faced with convincing evidence that suntan beds present a significant risk to the health of its users, but profit concerns for owners/operators drive their response, not the many young girls that have died or are dying of malignant melanoma cancer. Why is this happening? When I had a brief discussion with one of our local health club managers about the safety of their tanning bed services, her reaction was focused on the impact to their profits, not the safety of the Club’s members.

The evidence about the deadly affect on young girls has snowballed over the past year. Last year, The World Health Organization moved tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category – “carcinogenic to humans.”

Last month, the Food and Drug Association advisory committee recommended that people under 18 be barred from using tanning beds or at least have a signed consent form from their parents. In a March 2010 USnews.com article, Allan Halpern, Skin Cancer Foundation vice-president and chief of dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was quoted as saying “The only purpose of a tanning salon is to give you a blast of carcinogen” and “Given our druthers,  we’d like to see no tanning beds out there.

The response from The Indoor Tanning Association – it “respectfully disagrees” with the FDA Panel Recommendations.  Wow! When all of the evidence is concluding that you are killing people and your are in panic mode focused only on keeping the cash flow machine flowing, what else can you say?

Even the Federal Trade Commission has joined the fray against tanning beds.  In January 2010, the FTC charged the Indoor Tanning Association with making false health and safety claims about indoor tanning. “Contrary to claims in the association’s advertising, indoor tanning increases the risk of squamous cell melanoma skin cancers according to the FTC complaint.”

The April 25, 2010 Parade Magazine referenced the Lancet Oncology 2010 report about tanning beds and the “consistent evidence of a link to melanoma of the eye and declared tanning beds to be “carcinogenic to humans.”

Recent legislation has made it more costly to “give you a blast of carcinogen”. A 10% federal tanning bed tax may make it more difficult for tanning bed salons to remain profitable. Hopefully the additional tanning costs will either discourage teenagers from indoor tanning services or reduce access to these services.

What might be the next shoe to fall against tanning bed operators? Besides national and state proposed legislation to regulate the use of tanning beds, law firms specializing in personal injury services are looking at this area for possible lawsuits.  The Farber Law Group in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington posted an article on their website about the dangers of tanning beds and noted that they represent people who have been seriously injured by dangerous products and have product liability cases.

So, how can I trust health clubs that offer services that may be killing teenagers? I have to admit that I previously trusted our local health clubs to only offer services that were consistent with helping members become healthier and fit. In addition, I believed that the health clubs would monitor their services and modify them as necessary to protect their membership. I now know how naïve I was and that trust should only be reserved for those in my carefully selected circle of family, friends and advisors. 

When lobbyists with significant conflicts of interest are able to compete more successfully than the combined medical experts noted previously who are expected to protect us from these types of health dangers, it comes down to you and I to balance the scales of fairness. I don’t know about you, but enough years have passed where I turned my head and pretended that I just didn’t see the harm being inflicted on so many young girls using suntan beds.

Will you join me in letting our elected officials know that we will support them in legislation that will restrict the use of tanning beds to those above the age of 18? I have found our representatives to be very receptive to proposed tanning bed legislation after they understand the dangers and the concentration of young girls affected by the dangers of tanning beds. Please help by sending e-mails, making phone calls, or discuss the issue personally with our elected officials. Also, please let the health club managers and owners know how you feel and ask them for yourself why they are not taking action to restrict the use of their tanning beds to those over the age of 18. I don’t know about you, but the time has ended for me to turn my head anymore.

Thank you!


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Roger Federer versus Andy Murray - Why Did Murray's Play Fall Short?

Last night's Australian Open final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was beautiful to watch. The difference between winning a 16th Grand Slam championship and being a 2 time Grand Slam runner-up was taking charge of the point when the time presents itself. At this level, you are fortunate to have this opportunity once per point. Murray responded to his opportunities way too often by hitting the ball up the middle of the court. This will not help you win your first Grand Slam championship. Congrats Roger Federer!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Justine Henin is Back!

Justine Henin had a good showing Saturday evening against Serena Williams in the Aussie Final. Once she improves her 1st serve % and uses the slice more effectively on her backhand, especially when she is unable to set up properly for a top spin BH, she will be much more at ease in future finals. She has a perfect role model to learn from playing in the men's final tonight, Roger Federer. 


Australian Open Men's Final - Why You Should Watch Tonight!

Tonight's Australian Open men's final may eventually become a classic. Absent from this match is the brute power game. Expect to witness such finesse on both sides of the court that should reward those handsomely that stay up late to watch. It's Federer vs. Murray, the final made for tennis aficionados. Enjoy!


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tacoma News Tribune – “Tanning bed regulation long overdue”

The News Tribune attempts to bring much needed attention to the dangers of tanning beds, especially to the youth of our country. While the Tribune is supportive of additional regulation of tanning beds through expanded disclosures and standards, it falls well short of the mark in supporting much needed protection for the most vulnerable of our society. Washington State House Bill 2652 goes the extra distance to provide protections for those under 18 years of age by only allowing access to tanning beds through physician referral.

 If this action sounds very familiar, it should. This is the recommendation of the World Health Organization and the same restrictions just passed into law by Howard County, Maryland. See the following link for more information: http://fritzsword.blogspot.com/2010/01/howard-county-maryland-is-first-us.html

The News Tribune should do their homework to learn more about the risks versus benefits of tanning beds. I think they will find it very difficult to manufacture one legitimate reason, grounded in science, to oppose tanning bed restrictions for teenagers.

I received an e-mail today from the mother of a young girl that died at age 29 after being diagnosed with melanoma at 20 years of age and surviving the disease for another 9 years after diagnosis. Melanoma can be a silent killer, showing up after several years of exposure to tanning beds. Jaime Regan’s mother, Donna, refers to her daughter as a tanning bed addict when she was a teenager. Her full story is at: http://www.aimatmelanoma.org/aim-for-action/memorial-wall/jaime-rea.html .

To view a very informative video by the Academy of Dermatology about tanning beds usage by teenagers, see the following video:

With additional media attention being focused on the dangers tanning beds, it is my hope that legislators and the public will show the necessary courage to help protect the public, and especially teenagers, from the deadly potential outcomes from tanning bed usage. I invite you to become part of this conversation an advocacy.

Thank you.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Oxfam is Impressive in Haiti With Their “First Class” Humanitarian Response


After the disaster hit in Haiti and my wife and I wanted to make a financial contribution, we then needed to determine which organization we would like to support. We wanted to support an organization that would step up and make a real difference in their humanitarian response. I have to admit; we relied on the research of one of my friends and selected Oxfam as our choice to donate funds.  Why did we have the confidence in our friend for this important decision? Well, he is a top prosecuting attorney for our area, is a fellow Rotarian, a mountain climber, a triathlete, and reads 52 books a year (these are biographies, history, current events, and others that are not of your big print variety). The bottom line – he is a real renaissance man and does not take his research lightly! Well, Andy, as usual, definitely hit the mark on his Oxfam recommendation.
After we made our contribution, there was a story in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, January 16th, that criticized the delay between the time a contribution is made via texting on a cell phone and when the funds actually reached the charity. The author of the article discovered that the phone bill in many cases needed to be paid before the funds actually were forwarded to the charity. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704381604575005412610261000.html

After reading the article, we became concerned that the funds that we donated via our credit card may not reach the intended recipients until after our credit card bill was paid at the first of the month.

I responded to our concerns by sending an e-mail to Oxfam asking them to clarify the financial timing and impact. In response, I received the following:

“Dear (Fritz),

Thank you for writing.  I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Oxfam knew Haiti was prone to disasters, so we had stored emergency supplies around the Caribbean for a case like this.  Some of those stores were destroyed in the quake, but the rest have been put into use.  And we had several offices and about 200 staff in Haiti even before the quake.  So in a way, we were working on this disaster even before it happened.

In addition to advance preparations, we keep a reserve of money so we can go into quick action when a disaster does strike.  We are not waiting for the donations to hit our bank account before we can act.

At this point, the holdup is not money but logistics.  As I’m sure you know, it’s very difficult to get people and supplies into Haiti right now.    We are getting them in as fast as possible.    Haiti was in such poor shape to begin with that there will be years of rebuilding work to do.  The money that doesn’t get used for immediate aid will be put to good use on Haiti’s long-term recovery and development.

Julia Wise
Donor Services
Oxfam America
1-800-776-9326 ext. 2507”

What a top-notch response to alleviate our concerns! We are very pleased with our financial support of Oxfam for their role in the humanitarian efforts in Haiti. We recommend anyone wishing to make a difference in Haiti to contribute to Oxfam America. Their website is http://act.oxfamamerica.org/site/R?i=aKCwXa-vXSN1UeNml4Dn4Q..

Thank you!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FDA to Finally Consider Toughening Stance on Tanning Beds – Will They Have the Courage to Take Action?

The independence of the FDA scientists will be put to the test in March. With the tanning industry lobbyists working hard in just the last several months to fight off proposals for additional taxation, banning teens from using tanning beds in Howard County, Maryland, and the World Health Organization advising against tanning bed usage; they must now focus their attention on the upcoming hearings by the FDA.

Today’s Wall Street Journal featured an article titled “FDA to Toughen Tanning Warning.” Currently, the FDA regulates tanning beds as “Class I devices”, similar to the classification of low-risk medical devices that includes bandages.
In March, the FDA’s scientists will conduct public hearings to consider tougher regulations and warnings. “We don’t recommend using them at all, but we know people do use them so we want to make them as low-risk as possible” says FDA UV radiation specialist Sharon Miller.

You can sign the Skin Cancer Foundation’s petition to encourage the FDA to implement tougher regulations and warnings at:

In December 2009, the World Health Organization came out with a fact sheet titled “Ultraviolet radiation and human health” that is recommended reading for anyone interested in the risks of too much UV exposure or even too little. Under the category of “Protective measures”, the WHO advises to “Avoid sunbeds: use of sunbeds before the age of 35 is associated with a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma. Unless under medical supervision, sunbeds or sunlamps should not be used. WHO recommends banning their use by people under 18 years old.”  The full Fact Sheet can be found at:

Howard County, Maryland is the first U.S. Jurisdiction to actually show the courage to face the tanning bed industry lobbyists and vote unanimously to follow the WHO recommendations and ban tanning bed usage by those under 18 years of age.  See my last post at:

I hope that you will join us in this important conversation with family, friends and civic leaders to help protect the public from the dangers of tanning beds. We need your help to let our public officials know how we feel and encourage legislation to ban tanning beds at least to those under age 18. In addition, patrons of tanning beds, at least 18 years of age, should be required to sign waivers that they understand the risks of tanning prior to using these services.  Tanning bed services should be limited to regulated tanning salons and should not be integrated with other services such as are provided in health clubs.

Let me know how you feel? Your thoughts and ideas are encouraged as well as spreading the word about the dangers of tanning beds. Thank you.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Howard County, Maryland is First U.S. Jurisdiction To Ban Teens From Tanning Beds

The complexion of teens in Howard County has begun to change, for the healthier. Howard County is the first U.S. Jurisdiction to ban those under age 18 from tanning beds. It so happens that this important advocacy effort has a surprising new leader. Ken  Ulman, Howard County Executive, is also the brother of Doug Ulman, Livestrong CEO! See the following articles:

We invite you to join this effort to encourage community and government leaders to remove this cancer danger from our communities. Tanning beds do not serve any useful role other than to provide profits for those who own and operate the services. Start the conversation with anyone who will listen – family, friends, civic leaders, and others that will eventually make it easier to pass bans for tanning beds. The World Health Organization classified tanning beds in its top risk category for a reason. It will take courage for our community leaders across the country to adopt the same measures as Howard County. We think that taking up this important conversation is the first step.
Will you join our conversation?  Thank you and welcome!


Follow Fritz on twitter at http://twitter.com/fritzsword

Sunday, January 10, 2010

CBRC Plans to Phase Out Tanning Beds, TCCC Opts for Profits Ahead of Member Safety

On November 9, 2009 I sent two Washington state health clubs letters requesting consideration of removing their tanning beds due to well-documented skin cancer risks. Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland and Tri-City Court Club of Kennewick were the two recipients of my letter (http://fritzsword.blogspot.com/2009/11/copy-of-actual-letter-to-local-health.html).

I am pleased to announce that Columbia Basin Racquet Club (CBRC) has agreed to phase out their tanning beds. As part of their plan, CBRC will not purchase additional suntan beds, but will allow the current beds to operate for the balance of their estimated useful life. We hope that this plan will become a model for health clubs across the United States.
While CBRC has worked to find a reasonable solution, Tri-City Court Club’s actions reflect their priority, at least in this situation, of putting profits ahead of member safety. During a brief conversation with the Club’s manager at TCCC in November, she informed me that the Club was looking at the issue and was considering the financial impacts of the decision as well as the science involved. While I have exchanged several e-mails with the CBRC Club Manager, I have not had the courtesy of even one written reply from the TCCC Manager.

Maybe a good starting point for TCCC is to read my previous blogs about the risks of tanning beds. There are several citations from credible sources including the World Health Organization and a prominent dermatologist from the Oregon Health and Sciences University. The following are the links:

As a former tennis club professional, manager, and now member, it has been interesting to “assess” how each club responded to my original letter, the reasoning behind their response or non-response, and then compare the clubs actions. In this situation, the CBRC ownership team elevated the issue and then carefully crafted a reasonable solution to the problem. Their actions show that they truly care about the safety of their members. The opposite is unfortunately true of their cross-town competitor.  The TCCC failed to even show up for the discussion. I guess we now know how they really feel about their members!