Each month I use this space to discuss the current issue of Nature’s Pathways. This month, however, I would like to share a letter from a reader who wrote in response to our September cover story. She makes many valid points and, unfortunately, her experience is not uncommon.
First of all, I want to compliment you on your magazine. Whenever I see it at Gateway Chiropractic I pick up a copy. I appreciate the numerous articles about healthy living.
However, I was a bit disappointed with a recent article on the skin cancer epidemic. I was diagnosed with stage IIB melanoma in February of 2009. I underwent surgery followed by Interferon (a form of chemotherapy) only to have my melanoma return in July 2009. I had more surgery (skin graft) and more medication (14 injections every month for a year; I will be finished the end of November).
Although your article did a fine job of explaining non-melanoma and the Mohs micrographic surgery, I feel you fell short of the severity of melanoma skin cancer. I think many readers (like so many people) think skin cancer is an "easy cancer," that they just cut it out and you’re fine. Wrong. Early detection is so vital. The deeper the melanoma, the more the likelihood it will spread to any area on or in the body including the liver, lungs, brain, breast, etc.
Because of my stage, I have only a 65 percent chance of surviving another 5 years, and only a 50 percent chance of surviving 10 years or more. Mohs surgery wasn’t even an option due to the depth of my cancer. Obviously those diagnosed at stage 3 or 4 face more daunting odds. Here are some statistics:
The incidence of many common cancers is falling, but the incidence of melanoma continues to rise significantly, at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers.
More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. One person dies of melanoma almost every hour (every 62 minutes).
The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the epidermis, is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease.
Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.
One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.
Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure. This can increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.
Again, I applaud you for bringing this topic to the public’s attention. I would like to see more emphasis on the complexity and severity of melanoma.
One suggestion I have for any future focus on skin cancer would be to publish the article in May (Melanoma Awareness Month) prior to the start of summer rather than in September. Also, giving the perspective of a melanoma warrior (we are not considered survivors because the incident of recurrence is so high) may give a better understanding of just how dangerous sun exposure is.
The Melanoma Research Foundation is an excellent source of information. You can also access their Bulletin Board (MPIP-Melanoma Patients Information Page) where melanoma warriors from around the world share their stories.
Mary Benesh-Zoeller, Little Chute
Stage IIB Melanoma Warrior