By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The first Monday in May kicks off Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and it’s on the rise.

A lot of important skin cancer research leading to improved treatments is happening right here in Philadelphia.

University of Pennsylvania’s new center dedicated to fighting melanoma is inspired by a young woman who lost her battle. Melanoma killed Tara Miller when she was just 29 years old.

Now, with a gift from her family, the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine is opening the Tara Miller Melanoma Center in her memory.

CBS3 first talked to Tara’s twin sister, Laura Miller, in 2016.

“Incredible how she handled the whole thing with such grace and such courage,” Miller said.

Miller described how Tara always had a sense of humor through all the grueling treatments, always wearing funny t-shirts.

“She’s left such an impact that you know a lot of people don’t get that for 29 years, at least I got that time,” Miller said.

Protecting Skin From Sun Exposure Is Best Way To Prevent Melanoma, Doctors Say 

Penn Oncologist Lynn Schuchter, who treated Tara, has a pillow from her that says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

“She was a remarkable woman, incredibly courageous, such a love for life,” Dr. Schuchter said.

Dr. Schuchter and the team at Penn are on the cutting edge of finding new treatments for melanoma, which, when caught early, is curable.

The signs and symptoms to look for include:

– Asymmetry: A mole that has an irregular shape.
– Borders: The mole has uneven edges.
– Color: Melanoma usually has more than one color.
– Diameter: A mole that is larger than a pencil eraser.
– Evolution: Unusual skin changes should always be checked.

“We’ve known for a long time, unlike other cancer, melanoma doesn’t respond to chemo or radiation, [which is] why advanced melanoma is so deadly. Recently, past several years there have been over 10 new immunotherapies,” Dr. Elizabeth Hale said.

With the improved treatments, more than 92% of melanoma patients survive at least five years.

The new Tara Miller Melanoma Center at Penn is being dedicated on Monday, May 6.

It will focus on fast-tracking new advanced treatments, including immunotherapy.

Stephanie Stahl