COLUMN NINETY-FOUR, JULY 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THE SKIN CANCER PLAGUE
DR. ARIAL OSTAD AT WORK ON A PATIENT
I am the victim of a skin
cancer plague that is spreading around the world maybe faster than AIDS, SARS,
Flu or Monkeypox. Why? Because of the ever-widening hole in the ozone layer
above Antarctica at the bottom of the world. Through this hole has been pouring
the sun's deadly ultra-violet rays, otherwise shielded from us by the ozone
layer. That widening hole above the South Pole is also one of the reasons for
In a Fortune magazine I
have stolen from the office of Dr. Arial Ostad, billionaire conservationist Ted
Turner says the chances of humans becoming extinct in 50 years are no more than
50-50. Things don't bode well for my grandchildren.
It is June of 2003. I am at
Dr. Ostad's office because one of his assistants has called me in for a
checkup. I first went under Dr. Ostad's scalpel some five months previous. At
that time, I'd already been sliced open by other surgeons and I wasn't
looking forward to more scalpels.
My skin cancer adventure
started with a growth that popped out on my face alongside my nose. The local
dermatology clinic biopsied it and, finding the growth to be a basal cell
cancer, recommended I have it removed at the hospital's radiation lab. Then a
friend told me his father had had the same thing.
"He had his cut
out," the friend said. "Why do you want to let yourself get all that
dangerous radiation. Sure, the surgery left a hole in my father's face, but
the hole soon filled in and now his face is as good as it was. And no scars!"
Then another friend told me
she had to same kind of surgery. And then other friends started telling me about
cancerous growths having been cut off their faces, too. It seemed the same thing
was happening to a lot of people.
'skin cancer is
common," Dr, Ostad assured me on my first visit to his office. His office is
on Lexington Avenue in New York, a block away from Hunter College. As Dr. Ostad
explained, basal cell cancer is a simple matter compared to the much more
ominous and life-threatening melanoma. I didn't even want to know about any
worse forms of skin cancer. But I was happy to learn that basal cell skin cancer
is usually non-lethal.
Dr. Ostad is a master of "Moh's surgery?---a term I at first mistook as "mole surgery." "Moh's surgery? gets its name from the Dr. Frederick Moh, the surgeon who pioneered the procedure.
The widening hole in the ozone layer is causing skin cancer and global warming
First the surgeon slices
off the growth at approximately skin deep---but not before mapping exactly where
the growth protruded from the skin. Then he microscopically slices off the base
of the severed growth like a deli owner slicing a cut of salami for a sandwich.
He puts the slice under a microscope to see if any cancer roots remain and to
determine exactly where they are.
While the Dr Ostad or his
technicians were looking through the microscope to see if my growth had
cancerous roots, I was sitting inside Dr. Ostad's waiting room trying to read
a magazine with one of my eyes partially covered by a big bandage plastered to
the side of my nose. During the procedure inside one of the Dr. Ostad's
examining rooms, I'd hardly felt him sticking needles into my face to
anesthetize the area. And I hadn't felt it at all when Dr. Ostad cut the
cancer off my face. After he and an assistant had bandaged me up,
they'd told me to go outside in the waiting room and wait.
If the cancer roots go
deep, they keep cutting off more slices from the patient's face until the
microscope tells them there are no more roots. What happened n my case was that
the microscope said Dr. Ostad had gotten the entire cancer with his first cut.
They called me back into the examining room, gave me a booster shot to keep that
part of my face numb and all I felt was Dr. Ostad stitching up the wound. He
didn't even have to bother to finish stitching. He---the master---did the
"inside? stitching so as not to leave a scar. One of his technicians---to an
old man like me, they all look like movie starlets---took care of the
"outside? stitching. Dr. Ostad has a staff of "???eleven. The movie
starlet technicians working in the examining rooms with the doctor wear lab
coats or scrubs. The eight gorgeous knockouts working in the outer office dress
"What a harem!" I
thought. But Dr. Ostad is not a pasha. He is a married man. I asked him if he
takes the growths he cuts off his patients and feeds them to the cats and he
laughed. After ridding my face of the ugly growth, he also chopped off a cancer
that looked like a worm growing out of my back.
Now it is a pleasant June
afternoon five months afterwards, and I am in for a checkup. I undress and don a
gown so Dr. Ostad can inspect me in my birthday suit. He finds a growth above my
lip and a mole beneath my right breast. He takes a medical instrument that
reminds me of a nail clipper and says:
'this is going to pinch a
Then, he clips off the two
suspect growths, known as solar keratoses. In each case all I feel is a very
distinct pinch. Then he puts bandaids on the wounds, his assistant hands me an
instruction sheet for aftercare and I'm done for the day. He is going to send
the tissue he clipped off me to a lab for a biopsy.
"Why did you choose
Moh's Surgery as your specialty?? I ask Dr, Ostad.
"Because I like the
artistic aspect of medicine and Moh's Surgery allows me to incorporate art
into what I do. Basically, removing the skin cancer leaves someone with a wound
and then you have to reconstruct that wound to put things back together and
it's like sculpting the face, so there's an art component."
"And you had to become a
"I chose dermatology
because skin diseases are not serious for the most part----whether it's acne
or rashes, psychologically it bothers the patient. I liked being able to make
the patient feel better psychologically."
Dr. Ostad started his
practice six years earlier. Now, at 37, he's doing a land-office business,
with patients all but lining up at his door. With his reputation quickly
spreading, he gets a lot of referrals from other doctors. He says his practice
has especially grown within the last three years. He said he currently sometimes
sees as many as 40 or 50 patients a day,
'skin cancer is really an
epidemic," he explains. 'that's another factor. More and more people are
coming down with skin cancer because of the sun's ultra-violet rays. The
reason definitely is that the ozone layer is depleting because of all this
industrial pollution. The pollution creates holes in the ozone layer and the
sun's ultra-violet rays are getting stronger.
'this didn't start with
George W. Bush becoming president. Industry has become more advanced. A cure
would really help. And I think we're getting closer to it---certainly newer
information is coming out that's exciting about non-surgical ways of treating
The skin cancer plague
didn't start with George Bush and won't end with him, either. Blessed with
nothing but good fortune since his birth, he remains untouched by the skin
cancer plague. But, having spent so much of his time on golf courses, he, too,
may one day have to undergo Moh's surgery. Apparently as wooden as a
marionette that has no outward signs of being troubled by emotions, he remains
impervious to scientific warnings that the deteriorating ozone layer is the
cause of global warming.
According to the New York Times,
the Bush White House edited out sections of an Environmental Protection
Agency report concluding 'that
warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and
tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems."
"Among the deletions were
conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on
climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned
and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year," the New York Times
reported, "White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study
showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade
compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added
a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute,
questioning that conclusion."
The American Petroleum
Institute, of course, represents Big Oil, for which Bush has demonstrated more
love and patriotism than he has ever shown for America. The entire Bush
administration is made up of corporate executives more interested in lining
their own pockets than in enhancing the public weal. Corporations, of course,
are inhuman entities that care only for profit. Corporations don't have
grandchildren. As far as corporations are concerned, the sun can get hot enough
to burn us all to crisps.
An Internet search tells us
that the skin cancer plague in Australia is spreading by leaps and bounds faster
than a stampede of terrified kangaroos. In Chile and Argentina, the skin cancer
plague is also running amuck. That's because Australia, Chile and Argentina
are in the Southern Hemisphere---much closer than the rest of the world to the
widening hole in the Ozone layer over Antarctica. Consequently, the
Argentineans, the Chileans, and the Aussies (of both the white-skinned and
aboriginal variety) get a stronger shot of the Sun's ultra-violet rays.
What keeps widening this hole in the Ozone layer? Pollution. The burning of fossil fuels and fossil duels are nothing but the oil and coal for which George W. Bush has demonstrated so much love. ##
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