Raising awareness about the heightened occupational risk of melanoma for firefighters and providing annual skin cancer screenings to as many fire departments as possible.
We have a dedicated and clear mission; help find melanoma before it spreads and hopefully save the lives of the men and women who already risk their lives to help us and prevent families from experiencing the nightmare that the Valenta family endured.
With the help of volunteer medical professionals, business partnerships, fundraising, and support within the community, we are able to bring skin cancer screenings right to the fire stations.
In 2022, nearly 75% of the firefighters added to the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial died from occupational cancer. Studies have shown that firefighters have a 1.31 times greater risk of developing malignant melanoma than the general public.
What is Melanoma
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can develop anywhere on the skin. A new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color may be a sign of melanoma. Any unusual spot should be checked.
It is not fully understood why firefighters are at a higher risk for melanoma, but it is believed to be linked to carcinogen exposure from byproducts of combustion, diesel exhaust, and retardants used on fires.
Due to the occupational risk firefighters face, the best prevention for malignant melanoma is early detection. Include a skin check in your annual medical exam and see a dermatologist regularly.
Andy Valenta spent 11 years as a firefighter for the City of Vista Fire Department in San Diego, CA. It was without a doubt his calling in life. He was a hero to his community and to his family.
With very little warning, Andy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma in January of 2021. It was discovered that dozens of tumors had spread through his body. Less than four months later, he lost his battle with occupational cancer. Andy leaves behind his wife, Caylie, and their two young daughters.
The Andy Valenta Melanoma Foundation was created to raise awareness within fire departments and to help provide annual skin cancer screenings to firefighters. These men and women dedicate their lives to service, risking their lives for their communities. The Foundation will strive to prevent the needless loss of life to occupational melanoma.
A fate like Andy’s may be preventable for other firefighters if detected early. We hope to help as many fire families as possible in avoiding the nightmare that we have endured.
Andy’s story, as told by his caregiver Caylie Valenta, has been shared by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.
Learn more about firefighter cancer and the programs available.
The Andy Valenta Melanoma Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Andy’s widow, Caylie Valenta, and fellow Vista firefighter Mark Gaffney in 2022.
The Foundation is currently working to form partnerships within the community, with businesses, and with medical professionals to raise funds and strengthen our mission to increase awareness, educate firefighters, and provide skin cancer screenings to fire departments.
If you would like to help support the Andy Valenta Melanoma Foundation please contact us or donate today.
The Andy Valenta Melanoma Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in accordance with IRS law.