Skin Savers: How Universal's Adam Fogelson and Wife Hillary are Racing to Fight Melanoma

2012-16 TOWN Fogelsons H
Andrew McLeod

The Fogelsons at home with their daughters Harper, 5, and Willa, 8.

On the eve of "Battleship's" big domestic open, the studio chairman and his cancer-survivor spouse tell THR about the importance of Melanoma Research Foundation's 5K run/walk.

For Adam Fogelson, May is either Skin Care Awareness Month or when Battleship opens domestically. Both rank high among his priorities.

The Universal Pictures chairman and his wife, Hillary, have persuaded the studio and the Style network (another Comcast family member) to sponsor the Melanoma Research Foundation's 5K run/walk May 6 on the studio's backlot. It's expected to draw 1,000 participants as it winds along the tram tour route. "We see the run as a way to get people talking about skin cancer," says MRF exec director Timothy Turnham. "What Adam's done is really raised its profile."

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Adam, 44, says he's involved "for the most selfish of reasons. My wife was first diagnosed at age 25. She's been diagnosed twice since. I have two young daughters, and this disease has a strong genetic predisposition."

Worldwide, melanoma causes 75 percent of skin-cancer deaths, with 160,000 people diagnosed annually and roughly one-third dying. "It's the fastest-growing cancer epidemiologically in the U.S.," says dermatologist Harry Saperstein. "It's because of stored sun damage."

The Fogelsons' activist focus is on behavior that leads to skin cancer. They're especially vigilant with their kids because "one bad sunburn in childhood significantly increases your chance of getting melanoma," says Hillary, 36, who integrates hats, rash guards, sunglasses and sunscreen (her current fave for men is KINeSYS) into her family's lives. She shares tips on her website Pale Girl Speaks, is working on three PSAs for Style and has a Seal Press book out in September about how melanoma affected her. "I try to give practical advice about sun protection," she says.

Adds Adam, "The consequences of not protecting yourself and not getting checked are legitimately catastrophic."

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Their modernist Hollywood Hills home has a pool cut into the hillside, but "getting a tan is no longer a priority," says Adam. "In fact, it's the thing we work to avoid. And the reality is, it's not that hard to do." He says that on vacations, he joins the kids in the water wearing a surfer-style rash guard ("No one wants to see more of my skin"). They mention a particular "frustration" when seeing children overexposed at the beach.

Tanning salons are the worst as far as Hillary is concerned ("To me, they're like cigarettes -- absolute killers"), but she points to an unexpected danger in, of all places, nail salons. "The trend is gel manicures where the product dries under a UV light," she says. "Your hands are fully exposed; it's like putting them in a tanning bed."

While the Fogelsons say they'll occasionally point out a suspicious mole to a stranger, they keep their missionary zeal regarding melanoma under control. "I don't have a Sharpie and circle things on people in the elevator," jokes Hillary.