Health Buzz: Skin Cancer and Other Health News

Uninsured rates fall, Michelle Obama’s speaking finesse, and a new book from a former ER doctor


Skin Cancer May Up Future Risk of Other Cancers

People who have had nonmelanoma skin cancer face twice the risk of developing lung, colon, and breast cancer than those who haven't had skin cancer, according to a new study published online yesterday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers examined the risk of developing cancer among 769 people with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer and compared that to 18,405 people with no history of skin cancer. During a 16-year follow-up period, the researchers found that the incidence of cancers was 293.5 per 10,000 people among people with a history of skin cancer, compared to 77.8 per 10,000 among people with no history of the disease. Also, the younger a person was when he or she developed nonmelanoma skin cancer, the higher his or her risk of developing other cancers.

In June, Adam Voiland listed eight ways to spot skin cancer before it kills. He also explained why skin cancer kills more men than women.

Number of Uninsured Americans Falls

The number of Americans without health insurance decreased by more than 1 million people in 2007, the first annual decline in seven years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2006, 47 million Americans, or 15.8 percent of the total population, were uninsured, compared to 45.7 million, or 15.3 percent, in 2007. Additionally, figures for those with health insurance are on the rise: 249.8 million people had insurance in 2006, while 253.4 million were insured in 2007, according to the Census Bureau. These changes are largely driven by increased coverage of children through government-sponsored health insurance programs. "The number of children covered by government health insurance programs increased to 31 percent from 29.8 percent in 2006," David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, said during a teleconference yesterday.

Earlier, U.S. News's Michelle Andrews explained that too little insurance coverage can be a problem for some people. She also described the limited appeal of limited-benefit insurance.

How to Deliver a Speech Like Michelle Obama

People, it's said, fear public speaking more than they fear death. But if that adage applied to Michelle Obama when she took the podium Monday night, before a crowd of about 20,000 and a TV viewing audience of millions, it was hardly noticeable. She quickly got into her groove in her speech at the Democratic National Convention, embracing the crowd. How did this woman, who's not a politician and is relatively new to the campaign scene, do that? Deborah Kotz offers five tips for beating public speaking anxiety.

U.S. News offers advice on how to cope with social anxiety, including six tips on managing the disorder.

If Medicine Is So High Tech, Why So Much Illness?

A 40-year-old patient named Marguerite provides the context for A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflection on Illness in a High-Tech Era, a book written by Robert Martensen and to be published next month. As an ER doctor, Martensen tentatively diagnosed inflammatory breast cancer in Marguerite. After a bilateral mastectomy, two malignant nodes could not be removed, automatically placing her in Stage 4, with a 15 percent chance of living for five years. Martensen steps back to tell a larger story: "[D]espite all the effort and hope that patients and their families and doctors have put into breast cancer research and treatment in the past 100 years, those like Marguerite who present with advanced metastatic cancer probably do not live much longer than their early-20th-century counterparts. It is harder to determine whether they live better."

Avery Comarow calls the book "quietly compelling." Deborah Kotz recently offered advice on when to visit a high-risk breast cancer center. Previously, she explained that relapse is still a real possibility for breast cancer patients.

—January W. Payne