A new articles on melanoma pubblished in Los Angeles Times:
My melanoma, my message: As a surgical oncologist, I’m usually the one delivering the bad news. But this time I was the recipient.Nine days earlier,
my dermatologist had taken a biopsy from a small pink dot on my back, and now the results were available. It was, he told me, malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. I envisioned the irony of my obituary: “Melanoma surgeon dies of melanoma.” Specializing in the care of
melanoma patients makes me all too aware of the facts. I know that melanoma is one of only a few cancers whose incidence is increasing. The chance of developing it during a lifetime is 1 in 50. And while melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases, it causes 75% of skin cancer deaths. This year alone there will be more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States, causing 9,000 deaths. But in the moment of receiving bad news, statistics became meaningless. At age 36, with two young children, I had a potentially deadly cancer, and all I could think was, “Why me?” Soon, the scientist in me took over, and I arrived at “Here’s why.” Like lots of kids, I’d enjoyed family vacations on the beach. Could it have been that? Maybe. But I also spent time in tanning beds before the age of 18. My mother used one to help treat her psoriasis, and I used it because we believed it could give me a “healthy tan,” a base that would prevent me from burning. I also had a family history of melanoma, which increased my odds. Because of that, I had been faithful about being screened every six months. Melanoma that is discovered in its earliest stages — as mine was — is highly treatable. By contrast, the five-year survival rate for melanoma that has traveled to distant organs is only 15%. This summer, the FDA is considering new regulations for tanning beds.
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