John McCain Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

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Aug. 16, 2000 -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, the former Vietnam POW who gave GOP nominee George W. Bush a stiff challenge, has been diagnosed with a recurrence of skin cancer, Republican officials said Wednesday.

According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the cancer is melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Doctors found the skin tumors on his arm and temple. Also, McCain is planning a news conference Friday to discuss his medical condition. They said he would see his doctors on Friday to discuss treatment options.

In the meantime, he has canceled a number of campaign appearances.

During his presidential campaign, McCain released hundreds of pages of medical records that detailed the lingering effects of injuries suffered in a Vietnam prisoner-of-war camp. The records also showed that in December 1993, McCain had a cancerous mole removed from his shoulder that proved to be melanoma.

John Eckstein, MD, McCain's longtime personal physician in Arizona, said at the time that McCain was cured of the cancer.

The records said McCain regularly has suspicious skin lesions or moles removed -- often basal cell carcinoma, the least aggressive and most common type of skin cancer.

When discovered early, melanoma is highly curable. But it is a very aggressive kind of cancer -- tumors can double in size every month -- and it can spread quickly to other parts of the body. In addition, once melanoma returns in a patient already treated, treatment is more difficult.

The number of melanoma cases has increased more rapidly than that of any other cancer, and the numbers continue to rise in most parts of the world. The American Cancer Society estimates 47,700 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and 7,700 will die.

To prevent skin cancer, doctors recommend:

  • Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wearing sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher
  • Covering up with appropriate clothing before going out in the sun
  • Making sure children, in particular, are protected because the majority of skin damage is experienced before age 18


Michael Ambrose, a POW center doctor made available by the McCain campaign in December 1999, said the type of cancer McCain suffered before is usually due to sun exposure from years ago. He said McCain and his fellow prisoners were kept in the Vietnamese sun for long periods, though it is impossible to link the cancer to his POW exposure.

McCain left the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia on Aug. 2 to return to Washington and had a spot of skin on the right side of his forehead removed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, spokesman Todd Harris said at the time.

There had been speculation that he had left the convention to avoid joining Bush on the platform at the closing session, although he had warmly endorsed the nominee in his own speech. Invited back by the Bush people, McCain returned to Philadelphia on Thursday, with a bandage covering the spot.

By the time he joined Bush in Monterey, Calif., for three days of campaigning on Thursday, he was wearing a Band-Aid, and by Friday, that was gone, although the area involved was red as it healed.

McCain said on the Bush plane that he had had to have sun-damaged skin removed.

McCain, who turns 64 on Aug. 29, has served Arizona in Congress since 1982.

His busy campaign schedule on behalf of congressional candidates has been postponed for several days, perhaps into September, officials said.

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