The state budget plan that passed the legislature last week sets aside $150,000 for skin cancer research at the University of Iowa. It’s a proposal that came from Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“My father contracted melanoma, was diagnosed at stage four and was treated at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics,” Raecker says. “Through that process I learned a great deal.” Raecker’s father died last November.

“Eighteen months after his diagnosis, which was probably 12 months more than we would have expected,” Raecker says. “And that was due to his exceptional treatment.” Melanoma is one of the most “under-researched” kinds of cancer, according to Raecker, and this allotment of state money may help.

Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says skin cancer is an “epidemic.” “The mystery of this melanoma is up until lately, nobody really knew a lot about how to combat this disease once you got it,” Heaton says. “So the issue is how do we treat melanoma and we need more research into that and we need more research into skin cancer.”

Some Democrats suggested the money might be better spent on state programs that encourage smokers to quit, but Heaton offers this passionate response. “I’d rather invest it in trying to deal with a person who all of a sudden discovers a mole,” Heaton says, “and if it’s too far into your skin and those cancer cells are released into the body, what can you do?”

Raecker hopes to start a bipartisan “Cancer Caucus” in the Iowa House.) “We will reach across party lines to generate awareness, even in the newsletters we send out and in our own districts, that if we could be in concert of working on these issues and making people aware of some of the precautions and what some of the opportunities are, I think it would be a positive thing,” Raecker says. And Heaton suggests there are other steps the state could take to curb the increase in cases of skin cancer.

This state has no real regulations on the use of tanning beds in this state. We have kind of left it open,” Heaton says. “There are states today…who forbid any…person under 18 years (of age) to use a tanning bed in a commercial establishment. They recognize the problems that are out there.”

Republicans and Democrats agreed to set the $150,000 aside, money included in a massive bill that outlines state spending for the Iowa Departments of Public Health and Human Services.