An app on Dr. Roy Jensen’s phone counts down the days until the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s application to be designated "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute is due.
“To some extent, comprehensive status is a good conduct medal for things you’re doing,” Jensen, director of the center, says of its quest for the designation, which fewer than 70 cancer centers across the country have.
If it gets it, it’ll be the only comprehensive cancer center in Kansas.
In addition to conducting research into basic science and clinical medicine, Jensen says the cancer center must demonstrate it’s working with the community on cancer prevention and education.
To that end, Jensen says KU doctors educated state lawmakers on the dangers of melanoma and lobbied for an indoor tanning ban for minors, which finally passed this session.
“A one-time use before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by almost 60 percent,” Jensen says, adding that many children lack the appropriate level of judgment to make those decisions for themselves.
“We felt there was no public policy measure that we could undertake that would have a bigger impact on this disease than this house bill.”
When similar legislation was introduced in 2013, Rep. Daniel Hawkins, R-Wichita, says he was one of its most vocal opponents.
“I did almost everything I could (to defeat it) because I didn’t think we needed more regulation,” Hawkins says.
But after meeting with constituents who survived melanoma, Hawkins had a change of heart. There are about 800 new cases of melanoma in Kansas each year.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has lobbied for similar legislation across the country. Jensen says the Kansas law is one of the most effective because there’s no parental exception. He says it will be highlighted in the KU Cancer Center’s NCI application.
“We feel like we’re responsible for each and every patient that gets diagnosed with cancer within our catchment area,” Jensen says.
The application deadline is Sept. 26.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.