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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Josh Paschal, Melanoma Survivor Edition

Kentucky’s Josh Paschal is fighting for his life against malignant melanoma, and so far, he’s winning.

Eastern Michigan v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Yesterday, Kentucky football defensive lineman Josh Paschal was on the Today show talking about his fight with malignant melanoma. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, because my wife has been engaged in this same fight for the last three years.

Up until very recently, a diagnosis of malignant melanoma was very bad news, as the cancer responds poorly to traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and if the initial surgery or radiation did not get it all or if the tumors are unresectable or poorly situated for radiation, outcomes tended to be very poor.

With the advent of monoclonal antibody technologies used to suppress certain immune pathways, melanoma along with other cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer have become much more treatable, and even “curable” to the extent of our understanding. Drugs such as Yervoy (ipilimumab), Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) have provided many formerly untreatable patients with not only hope, but long-lasting remissions. When these drugs produce a response, it is often dramatic and almost always durable.

In many patients, melanoma is managed like a chronic disease rather than a deadly cancer thanks to advanced treatments now available. More are going into the pipeline every day. My wife was in a clinical trial for a melanoma vaccine. She is currently 3 years cancer free and doing well.

But those with advanced disease who do not respond, the outcomes are usually very poor, and what that generally means is death from the cancer or complications thereof if surgery or radiation can’t eliminate all the tumors.

But the best way to fight malignant melanoma is not to get it. Melanoma risk can be greatly mitigated by avoiding sun exposure. I won’t go into great detail here except to say that since my wife’s diagnosis, I make annual visits to the dermatologist, check my skin at least once a week, wear a minimum of 50 to 100 spf sunscreen every day, and wear more clothing and hats.

Yes, a small amount of exposure can be beneficial in terms of manufacturing vitamin D, but the amount of exposure necessary for sufficient daily vitamin D is very small.

Trust someone who knows – melanoma is horrible and you do not want it. Take steps, save your skin and your life. Learn more here.

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