Sunday, February 26, 2006

Main Cause of Death for Women Between 19 and 50

From Medical News Today, today:

Melanoma is the most common cancer amongst us. It is the cutaneous tumour with the worst prognosis and its incidence is growing. Although possible overdiagnosis has been criticised, the reality is that, the death rate has gone up from 6,000 to 9,000 cases in ten years. In the USA, in concrete, it is the main cause of death amongst women between 19 and 50 years of age. According to specialists from the University Hospital of Navarra and from the USA, early diagnosis guarantees cure in 99% of patients with melanoma.

Factors that bear on the appearance of a melanoma are genetic predisposition and ultraviolet radiation. It is clear that exposure to the sun is a specific cause. More concretely, this causes mutations whereby the capacity of the melanocyte to recover after solar radiation is annulled. In this regard, those people who suffer from burns or blisters after high doses of sun demonstrate a greater capacity to develop a melanoma.

Despite its high incidence, the rate of survival from a melanoma is high, thanks to the melanoma prevention campaigns which enable the early detection of the melanoma and, thus, guarantees the efficacy of surgical treatment of the tumour.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Telling the family about your cancer

There is an article today in Red Nova News about a program that helps you come up with the best way to tell your children you have cancer. Article is more about the program than about the actual ways to tell your kids about it, so I found a couple other links that provide some suggestions.

Red Nova News: Telling Kids Can Be Hardest Part: Program Helps Patients Share News of Cancer
National Cancer Institute: Your Social Relationships After Cancer Treatment
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Survivor Resources

From DFCI's Survivor Resources:

Tips: Dealing with family issues

How do you cope with family issues? Here are some ideas that have helped others deal with family concerns:

* Let others know what to expect of you as you heal—and what not to expect. Do not feel you must keep the house or yard in perfect order because you always did in the past. Let people know what you can and cannot do.
* Give yourself time. You and your family may be able to adjust over time to the changes cancer brings. Just being open with each other can help ensure that each person's needs are met.
* Help your children (or grandchildren) understand that you were treated for cancer. Children of cancer survivors have said that these things are important:
o Being honest with them
o Speaking as directly and openly as possible
o Allowing them to become informed about your cancer and involved in your recovery
o Spending extra time with them

Friday, February 17, 2006

NASCAR driver beats cancer

I ran across this item today at while searching for other melanoma blogs. Apparently NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler was able to reverse a stage iv melanoma by eating nothing but raw food. Sounds simliar to what Anne Dinnel attempted to do.

From Raw Food News:

While he admits it can be difficult maintaining a raw food diet when he’s racing, nothing compares to the challenge he faced six years ago. In 2000 Jerrod’s doctors delivered the gut-wrenching news that he had stage IV melanoma.

They told me that I had about a five percent chance of living 10 years," Jerrod says. They told him his treatment options were chemotherapy, radiation, interferon or simple ‘monitoring’. "They said that these treatments or combinations of them would improve my odds up to 15 percent or so,” Jerrod said.

Doctors also warned him that the chemical treatments and radiation made it unlikely that he and his wife would be able to have children.

Following a period of intense research, discernment, and prayer, Jerrod and his young wife Nikki decided against traditional treatments and opted for radically changing Sessler’s diet.

It took them weeks and month to do an “exteme makeover” of their diet to revamp their habits and their pantry. The result was what they still follow today: a strict vegan diet, mostly raw foods that haven’t been processed, with no dairy or meat.

Their positive and courageous vision for using food as medicine in life and death circumstances was due to the young couples’ deep religious faith, as well as support from family and friends.

Today all Sessler family members are healthy and thriving, including three new additions to the family; two boys and a girl whose ages range from eight months to four years old.

Jerrod is thrilled to have defeated his cancer and happy to continue racing cars, a lifelong passion that started at age four when he announced that he wanted to be a race car driver. He raced go-karts as a boy and raced stock cars professionally in l998.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Anne Dinnell

I mentioned Anne Dinnel, first in May then again in July of 2005. She was the brave and beautiful young woman in Santa Cruz who decided to forego the standard cancer treatments and instead prolong her life with an all organic diet. She died in September at the age of 26. I emphasized the point last year, and I'll do it again: Her melanoma began as mysterious spot under one of her fingernails and her original doctor dismissed it. A malignant melanoma is not always going to be an obvious crusty formation on an easily accessible part of your body and even a trained medical doctor can miss a melanoma. As this sad story illustrates, it can even be under one of your fingernails.

The Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Arts dedicated a performance festival to Anne's memory. Since her death there have been two articles about her in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. 1, 2.

From the Sentinel:

Fourteen months after being diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, Anne Dinnell, 26, died Thursday evening at Dominican Hospital.

Tests earlier in the year had shown that Dinnell, who had pursued an alternative, diet-based treatment in lieu of standard radiation and chemotherapy, appeared to be free of cancer.

Her death, said her friend and co-worker Jason Book, "was as quick, and painless as possible."

Until being hospitalized early in September for what she thought was pneumonia, "Anne felt well, and she thought she was well," Book said.

During that two-week hospital stay, surgeons repaired a collapsed lung, and Dinnell was discharged from Dominican on Sept. 22. While recuperating at her parents’ home in Santa Cruz five days later, she fell ill again and returned to the hospital.
Rather than suffer nausea, weakness and other discomforts associated with chemotherapy, Dinnell took what she said was a calculated risk.

She was convinced she’d made the right choice after a second PET scan came up clear in June.

Dinnell changed her treatment schedule somewhat late in June, so she could begin part-time work as a legal assistant.

Book said she had received dozens of visits from friends and family members before she fell unconscious Wednesday night. "She was joking with them and was even able to laugh," Book said.

From another Sentinel article several days later:

Dinnell died Thursday of melanoma, which had spread to her lungs. She was 26.

"She never let herself believe that she was going to die from this," said her mother, Kathleen Dinnell. "Until the end, she was more concerned about us (her loved ones) than herself."
Her decision to forego chemotherapy had her doctors throwing up their hands.

"We don’t have good treatments for melanoma, so I couldn’t blame her," said oncologist Dr. Michael Alexander. "The treatments are toxic and they’re not very effective."
Dinnell had undergone surgery to her neck, underarm, hip and one of her fingers to remove cancerous tissue shortly after her initial diagnosis.

While recovering from the surgery, she made the decision to leave an administrative assistant position she had held for seven years, and pursue the alternative therapy full time. The regimen she chose recommends a rigorous devotion to preparation and ingestion of organic foods, and to regular colonic treatments.

"But the disease is notoriously unpredictable," said Alexander. "Ultimately, it does what it wants to do."

The fact that melanoma had spread to her lungs was unknown to Dinnell’s doctors on Wednesday of last week. Pathology reports did not arrive until shortly after she died.
Tuesday, after having returned to the hospital from her parents’ home where she had been recuperating from lung surgery, "she came to a quick acceptance," of her fate, her mother said.

She called friends, who came to visit for the last time Wednesday, and she composed farewell notes to her parents and her brother, Jeff, with whom she was extremely close, said Kathleen Dinnell.

"Anne was so witty, and just a doll all the way through," she said.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

First, the good. Cancer rates nationwide are down. And now the bad. The total number of cancer deaths still rose because of population growth. And the ugly. Melanoma rates are up.

From CancerFacts:

Cancer deaths in the U.S. fell in year-to-year numbers for the first time since the 1930s, according to the latest figures from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

The total number of deaths due to cancer was 556,902 in 2003, down from 557,271 a year earlier according to the report Cancer Facts & Figures 2006, which compiles records from 2003 and 2002, the most recent data available.

While the cancer rate has been falling for the past several years, the total number of deaths continued to grow due to population growth, which has partially masked the progress that is being made, according to Dr. John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.
On the negative side, while deaths from cancers are declining the number diagnosed with breast cancer in women and with prostate and testicle cancer in men, as well as leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, myeloma, melanoma of skin, and thyroid, kidney, and esophageal cancer in both men and women is rising.

Horses Part Two

More on the implications of how treating melanoma in horses could be beneficial to humans.

From Collegiate Times:

Recent studies of horses with malignant melanoma reveal possible treatments for humans suffering from similar cancers. This research is headed by John Robertson, professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Robertson also directs the college's Center for Comparative Oncology.
Robertson is presently testing a number of experimental treatments on horses. One of these treatments is an oil of biblical significance, frankincense. This botanical oil has selective anti-tumor properties that do not appear to disrupt normal cells.

One particular patient, a mature, grey thoroughbred, Chili, with malignant melanoma was treated with frankincense to get an idea of its effects. Robertson and his fellow equine researchers followed a daily regimen of injecting the oil directly into Chili's tumors and also applying it topically on one of the visibly affected areas.

The results of this preliminary experiment were promising. Some of the small tumor cells were destroyed by the treatment while at least one larger tumor, treated topically, was reduced in size. Robertson explains that “this work is in the earliest stages in developing a potential new therapy … and researchers need to do many more studies before they are sure this is a proven and useful therapy.”
They are also comparing serum samples from healthy and infected horses in hopes of discovering a “marker molecule” indicating a presence of the disease. A full evaluation of all surgical methods will also be undertaken in an effort to reduce the amount of tumors in horses with advanced stages of melanoma.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Horses, Frankincense and Melanoma

Melanoma attacks horses as well as humans. The risk factors for horses are surprisingly similar to ours.

From Medical News Today:

During a recent presentation made before a regional meeting of the American Cancer Society in Roanoke, Robertson discussed his use of Frankincense oil as a possible treatment for malignant melanoma in horses.

The risk factors for malignant melanoma in people and horses are very similar, according to Robertson. In people, they include pale complexion and hair, exposure to excessive sunlight and sunburns, and aging. Horses at risk also have a pale coat of grey to white, and there seems to be a correlation to aging, which could be a result of chronic exposure to sunlight. In each, the disease is an infiltrated pigmented malignancy that is difficult to manage. Conventional therapies include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery.

The disease often affects horses with the development of lesions on the lips, neck, and perineal area.

Melanoma detector

There's a new way to detect skin cancer.

From Fox News:

Researchers have developed a non-invasive technique for early detection of skin cancer.

The procedure uses different colors of light and assorted alignments of the electric field of each light segment to create unique images that can identify suspect skin growths called nevi.

"We are able to generate processed images that reveal the subsurface characteristics of the nevus," said developer Justin Baba of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "It is our hope that these images will enable an accurate determination of whether the nevus is cancerous or benign."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Jack Wolford

Poet Jack Wolford died recently. He was an editor at and he was diagnosed with melanoma last August.

Hot Metal Poets Editorial Staff Page

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Pittsburgh poet Jack Wolford died in St. Clair Hospital in December at the age of 60, his passing went largely unnoticed. Despite his considerable bulk -- Jack tipped the scales at a mind-bending 400 pounds before he took sick -- his incessant hand-rolled cigarettes and his ability to command any room by brilliance and bombast, he was virtually invisible, except to a close circle of friends.
Says Michael Simms, Autumn House general editor, "Jack was an excellent poet but published very little because he refused to court editors in a way that could help him. The smart and politic thing would have been to keep his mouth shut. But Jack was very blunt, saying what he needed to say."

"Jack couldn't find a wall he didn't want to run into," adds fellow poet Michael James, now serving as Jack's literary executor. "He'd write insulting cover letters to editors. When I'd say, 'Jack, you're shooting yourself in the foot,' he'd launch into a tirade about the worthlessness of a life lived untruly to oneself."
"Jack's intensity caused him to be insensitive," recalls Michael Wurster, a Poetry Exchange founder. "He could be brutal, simply bulldozing people. He wouldn't give anyone else a chance."

After Jack was diagnosed with melanoma last August -- in all likelihood, the residual effect of too much South American sun -- neither surgery nor major treatments helped much. Going in the hospital for the last time on Dec. 7, Jack brooked no whispering around him, no maudlin, teary-eyed farewells. Following the Dylan Thomas dictum, he refused to go gentle into anything, much less that good night. Wearing a jaunty bandana to mask his lesion, Jack howled his poet's war cry to the end. As one shocked duty nurse said to a visitor, "my, your friend is profane, isn't he?"

Friday, February 03, 2006

Developing melanoma epidemic among Latinos

There is an alarming new trend in California. Latinos were once thought to be immune to melanoma because of their skin pigmentation, but the number of skin cancer cases in Californian hispanics is growing by about 7% a year. | 01/24/2006 | Latino melanoma rate rising rapidly in state

California is experiencing a "developing epidemic" of melanoma among Latinos, according to a study released Monday by researchers at the University of Southern California.

The researchers are alarmed because the greatest increase is in the rate of so-called "thick'' tumors, which are more likely to be lethal, according to a report in the journal Cancer.

The number of total melanoma cases among Latinos is small -- about 200 new cases a year and about 50 deaths, said epidemiologist Myles G. Cockburn of USC's Keck School of Medicine.


Physicians must be aggressive in targeting prevention programs at Latinos, who account for about a third of the state's population, Cockburn said. "There is no reason for anyone to die from this.''

The USC study focused on California because of its 12 million Latino residents and accurate cancer registries. Cockburn said the results should hold for the rest of the country as well.

Melanoma incidence has been growing among all groups over the past 20 years at least, in large part because of increased exposure to the sun through outdoor recreation.

Cockburn and his colleagues studied all melanoma cases among Latino-surnamed Californians from 1988 through 2001. The disease accounted for 1.2 percent of male cancers and 1.6 percent of female cancers among Latinos.