Five years ago, Kelly Bernowski went in for what she expected to be a simple checkup with her dermatologist.

"He found something that didn't look right, and it turned out I had skin cancer," Bernowski said.

"I was lucky. It was caught early and I'm a survivor," she said.

Now Bernowski is dedicated to helping raise awareness about melanoma and funding to prevent it from taking more lives.

The owner of the Hair Works Salon in Grove City's Town Center has formed a team to participate in the Miles for Melanoma Central Ohio event. The 5K run/walk will be held at 9 a.m. Sept. 30 at Creekside Plaza, 101 Mill St. in Gahanna.

"I've gotten a team together with employees from my salon and other people interested in joining the fight against melanoma," Bernowski said. "We're collecting donations from people who want to support our effort or just want to make a contribution to the Melanoma Research Foundation."

The MRF supports research, education and advocacy for melanoma prevention and treatment.

"Melanoma is the most dangerous and deadly type of skin cancer," Bernowski said.

"What's tricky about it is that people often aren't aware they have it until they get tested. Getting tested on a regular basis, once a year, is the key to catching it early and having it successfully treated," she said.

That was the case for her, she said.

"Mine was caught early, so they've been able to treat it surgically," Bernowski said. "The scars aren't fun to have, but it's a lot better than having to go through chemotherapy."

Melanoma can strike at any age, she said.

And it's not just people who spend a lot of time in a tanning bed or laying out in the sun who are at risk, Bernowski said.

"Anyone who spends a lot of time out in the sun is at risk," she said. "I'm 47 and I'm part of a generation that when we were kids, we spent all our time outdoors. We weren't inside playing video games or sitting on the computer."

Heredity can also play a part, as it did with Bernowski.

"I have several family members who have had skin cancer," she said.

More information about the central Ohio Miles for Melanoma event is available at tinyurl.com/melanomamiles.

A link to the Bernowski's team page is also available.

Her Miles for Melanoma team has set a goal of raising $5,000, Bernowski said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman