by Richard Saltus As recently as five years ago, progress in treating life-threatening malignant melanoma was slow. Since then, several molecularly targeted drugs have burst on the scene, and new strategies for awakening the immune system to attack the cancer cells have yielded dramatic long-term survival benefits for some patients. “The outlook for patients has never been so good – and we anticipate that in the next year or two it will be much better,” says Louise M. Perkins, PhD, chief science officer for the Melanoma Research Alliance, which funds research on the skin cancer.
Asking an editor to pick his or her favorite story is like asking a kid to pick out just one piece of candy. It’s a tough task. Luckily, we’re not bound by the one-piece rule. So here are a few stories that you might have missed, or might want to view again.
“I don’t believe that optimism can cure cancer, but I do believe one’s general health around the edges can make a difference.” Sam Donaldson, ABC News contributor, learned he had melanoma (a type of skin cancer) in 1997. Despite his diagnosis, he opted to stay positive and learn all he could about his disease. Now chairman of the foundation board at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Donaldson also works with other cancer research on survivorship initiatives. He talked to us about what he learned, and shares some of his insights here.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Often caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight, melanoma accounts for only 4 to 5 percent of skin cancer cases, but is responsible for most skin cancer-related deaths. When detected and treated in its earliest stages, however, melanoma is often curable. The key is to avoid overexposure to UV rays – by limiting time outdoors during the peak hours of sunlight and wearing sun-protective clothing and sunscreen – and to be on the lookout for changes in moles and other blemishes that can be an early sign of the disease. As with …
Sunscreen shouldn’t be packed away just because it’s winter. Your skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. So before you hit the slopes, build a snowman, or head off to a tropical beach, take time to protect yourself, say skin cancer specialists at Dana-Farber. According to the American Cancer Society, snow, ice, and water can all reflect the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn, which in turn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some experts say winter sports enthusiasts face just as much risk of getting sunburn as summer sunbathers.
The face of cancer care in 2011 changed in encouraging and – in some cases – challenging ways. Here are some of the cancer stories that captured the most press attention in 2011. A federal task force recommended against routine testing of healthy men for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be a sign of prostate cancer. However, Dana-Farber’s Philip Kantoff, MD, called the message “misguided” and said that oncologists are using the test to find those who may benefit from screening and treatment.