Sunday, March 28, 2010


Many breast cancer cases might be avoided with better diet, exercise.

The AP (3/26) reports that researchers at a European breast cancer conference Thursday said that "up to a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more." Researchers noted that "better treatments, early diagnosis and mammogram screenings have dramatically slowed the disease," adding that "the focus should now shift to changing behaviors like diet and physical activity."

Better diet may lead to decreased breast cancer risk. Reuters (3/26, Peeples) reports that an analysis of 18 studies enrolling more than 400,000 people found that consuming less alcohol and more whole grains and vegetables could help women cut their chances of developing breast cancer. Researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition wrote that they saw an 11% lower breast cancer risk for women with the best diets.


FDA panel agrees on increased restrictions on tanning bed use.

ABC World News (3/25, story 9, 1:20 Muir) reported, "Tonight, there is late word from federal safety officials who are poised to crack down on indoor tanning beds. Twenty-eight million Americans tan indoors every year, and now a panel of experts is so alarmed by the dangers of skin cancer, it's making some pretty bold warnings." ABC senior medical editor Richard Besser, MD, explained that "a panel of experts put together by the Food and Drug Administration...reached broad agreement that there need to be increased restrictions on the use of these tanning beds for everyone under 18."

The CBS Evening News (3/25, story 7, 0:15, Rodriguez) reported that panel's proposed new restrictions range "from requiring parental consent forms to banning the machines outright."

But, because tanning beds themselves are not medical devices, the agency can only put restrictions on the lamps the beds use, the Wall Street Journal (3/26, Dooren) reports. In order to do that, the FDA could reclassify the lamps. That would force tanning bed manufacturers to get agency marketing approval of the beds.

According to the AP (3/26, Perrone), "The FDA has regulated sunlamps for more than 20 years, but a recent report by the World Health Organization tied the devices to skin cancer, prompting a call for tougher rules." In fact, "the WHO analysis showed that" melanoma, "the deadliest form of skin cancer increases 75 percent in people who use tanning beds in their teens and 20s."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Non-melanoma skin cancer cases increasing.

The CBS Evening News (3/15, story 6, 0:20, Couric) reported that "there has been a dramatic rise of certain types of skin cancer in older Americans. A new study of people on Medicare found that in just four years the number of procedures to treat non-melanoma skin cancers jumped about 77%. Researchers say the rise of sunbathing and tanning after World War II may have contributed to the increase."

Bloomberg News (3/16, Ostrow) reports, "The number of Americans treated for non-melanoma skin cancer increased 14.3 percent from 2002 to 2006, according to" a study published March 16 in the Archives of Dermatology. In 2006 alone, researchers "estimated there were more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers in the US...and about 2.1 million people were treated for the malignancy that year." In a March 12 interview, dermatologist and study author Howard Rogers, MD, PhD, stated, "There's an epidemic of skin cancer," which he attributed to a continued "lack of appreciation of the danger of going out in the sun."

The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Kaplan) "Booster Shots" blog reported that even though non-melanoma skin cancer "usually isn't deadly if found early," the economic toll of both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer is "still significant. The American Academy of Dermatology says that treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer cost $1.5 billion in 2004."

HealthDay (3/15, Goodwin) reported that in another study published March 16 in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers "developed a mathematical model to estimate the prevalence of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States." They discovered that "more people have had non-melanoma skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the last 31 years." And, "in a third paper in the same journal, researchers from the US National Cancer Institute found survivors of one melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to develop a second melanoma."

Patients may struggle to articulate how it feels to have cancer. The New York Times (3/15, Jennings) "Well" blog reported, "As a patient, it's hard to articulate how being seriously ill feels." Although "we like to say that people 'fight' cancer because we wrestle fearfully with the notion of ever having the disease," in reality, "ordinary language falls far short of explaining" the "keen sense of oblivion" that patients feel "once infested by the black dust of cancer and damaged by the 'friendly fire' of treatment." In fact, "words can just be inadequate," and people "often reach for the nearest rotted-out cliché for support." It may be "better," therefore, "to say nothing, and offer the gift of your presence."

Adolescents with cancer said to face unique challenges with treatment. On the front of its Science Times section, the New York Times (3/16, D1, Rabin) reports that teenagers are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer "much later in the course of their illness than younger children," because "they tend not to ask adults for help or confide about embarrassing physical changes." Dr. W. Archie Bleyer, "an expert on cancer in teenagers" at the St. Charles Medical Center in Oregon, noted that "teenagers fall into a cancer gap." While adolescents have "not benefited from the huge advances in survival made by younger children," they also "tend to develop a very different set of cancers from older adults." Researchers have made some breakthroughs, however, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, finding that teenagers under the care of pediatric oncologists fared "remarkably better" than "those treated by adult cancer doctors."

Saturday, March 6, 2010


On March 2, 2010, Congress passed legislation that extends the temporary freeze of Medicare physician payment cuts for 31 days. The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 78 -- 19. This 31 day patch is retroactive and will reverse the temporary 22% cut that took effect on March 1, 2010. Congress is expected to vote soon on legislation that could include another 30 day, 7 month or 9 month freeze for Medicare physician payments. I continue to oppose short term fixes to the flawed SGR payment formula, and I continue to advocate for enactment of a long-term physician payment solution. You can help by writing your Representive and Senator.  Below is a sample letter that you may want to use as a guide. You can find your members of Congress by visiting the links below and entering your zip code.

United States House of Reprensatives
Enter your zip code in the field on the top left portion of the screen

United States Senate
Select your state using the pull down menu located on the top right of the screen

Representative ________             or Senator__________

Attn: Health Legislative Asst.            Attn: Health Legislative Asst.
____House Office Bldg.                   _____Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515                   Wasington, DC 20510

Dear Representative ____           or Dear Senator______

My doctor has always been there to take care of me.  I am worried about my doctor's ability to continue to accept my Medicare insurance.  Over the past few years, increased pressures on the Medicare program have made it difficult for many doctors to continue to accept Medicare, and I am concerned that my doctors may have to quit the program or limit the number of Medicare patients thay see.

In addition, costs for doctors to provide service to me have continued to rise. Any expansion of coverage or reform of the health care system that doesn't first address problems in the existing system is doomed to fail.  Please find a way to replace the flawed formula that determines Medicare reimbursements with one that is fully paid for without borrowing from future Medicare payments or benefits.  This should be a sustainable and long term solution, and one that more closely reflects the actual increased costs of providing medical care. 

Please make stabilization of Medicare a top priority.  I want to know that a surgeon will be there when I need one.  Please keep my doctor in Medicare.  I thank you in advance for taking care of an issue that is vital to all Americans.