Big Bang Theory cast films skin cancer awareness campaign in memory of young fan

The girl's mother said: ‘We just don’t want any other families to go through what we went through’


Rachael Revesz
New York
Wednesday 27 July 2016 18:42
Big Bang Theory cast films skin cancer awareness campaign in memory of young fan

When the cast of the Big Bang Theory, the biggest show on American television, heard that one of their fans had died of cancer at 17 years old, they decided to do something about it.

Dropping the jokes and quips for a few minutes, the cast filmed a short video to raise awareness of skin cancer amongst young people.

“Adolescent melanoma is truly a silent killer with 90 per cent of new cases occurring between the ages of 10 and 19,” says Kaley Cuoco, the actress who plays Penny on the show.

One of those new cases was 17-year-old Claire Marie Wagonhurst, who died in 2014.

Her mother, the former local news anchor Marianne Banister, founded the Claire Marie Foundation alongside her husband and daughter 18 months ago and started to screen children for atypical moles this spring.

She said that her daughter did not watch much television but, as her cancer progressed, “The Big Bang Theory” became her favourite show.

The cast heard of Claire Marie's death through a family friend in Los Angeles who worked for the show.

Ms Banister said to The Independent that she was grateful to the show's cast.

"It made a huge impact already because the blessing of this is that it’s going to speak to the people who are most directly affected."

"I’ve been getting responses from New Zealand and Australia and the US - it’s wonderful in terms of launching a global campaign," she added.

Skin cancer is the number two cancer in young people and the number one cancer among young women between 25 and 30, she added. Although skin cancer affects all races, all genders and it is our largest organ, people are not routinely screened for skin cancer in the same way that they are encouraged to get screened for breast or prostate cancer.

She said her daughter’s case was unusual because Claire Marie had a condition called hypothyroidism which became fully symptomatic as her mole was changing. A study from MD Anderson found that, in some people, hypothyroidism feeds the development of melanoma cells.

"Claire got screened routinely, and her mole seven months earlier was fine," said Ms Banister.

A change of hormones can often be the catalyst for a melanoma, including puberty or pregnancy. But her daughter’s death was “nothing to do with the sun”, her mother said.

Ms Banister warned young people to always wear sunscreen, avoid tanning booths and to get screened once a year.

"The bottom line is I hope they find a cure, but that’s years down the road," she said.

"We just don’t want any other families to go through what we went through."

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