Archive for September, 2013


Wednesday, September 18th, 2013


A rare melanoma may have claimed the tip of her finger but it won’t take away Samantha Holder’s smile as she walks down the aisle on her wedding day.

Next Thursday, the 39-year-old will get married just a few weeks after a medical scare left her counting her lucky stars.

Ms Holder attended a cosmetic clinic for a little facial “freshen up” in the lead-up to her wedding when physician and skin cancer expert, Dr Eddie Roos, noticed an unusual blemish under the nail of her left index finger.

The thumb showing the signs of the rare form of cancer.
The thumb showing the sign of the rare form of cancer.

“The first thing he noticed was my index finger nail with the brown streak through it,” she said.

“I had a biopsy and one week later he confirmed it was a rare nail bed cancer. Another week later they took it off.

“It is a very aggressive melanoma that can quickly turn into lymphoma cancer.”

Ms Holder had an operation to remove the tip and first knuckle of her index finger.

“It was a scary experience because it happened so quickly,” she said.

“It was like a dream.”

As a self-confessed sun lover, Ms Holder said the experience had changed her attitude.

“I am a lot more conscience of sun safety now,” she said.

“I will have to have check-ups every three months, then every six months and then every 12 months.”

Dr Roos said the prevalence of subungual melanoma was about one per million people each year.

“They are more common on thumbs and big toes, but they can be present on any digit,” he said.

“Look out for parallel brown or black pigmented lines from the nail bed to the tip of the nail. It looks different to a blood blister.

“While this form of skin cancer is not common, occurrence of melanoma on the rest of the body is approximately one in 100 people, and we encourage people to have regular skin checks, especially the younger generation as melanoma is prevalent in the 15 to 45 age group.

“If you notice a lesion that changes in size, shape, colour or bleeds and does not heal properly, you should see a doctor about it straight away.”


Henry Sapiecha

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Thursday, September 5th, 2013

One in three teenagers may be consuming the equivalent of 10 instant coffees a day in energy drinks that can cause insomnia, anxiety and heart problems, a leading sleep expert says.


A survey of 110 patients conducted by Chris Seaton, a paediatric sleep specialist from the Westmead Children’s Hospital, found 35 per cent of teenagers consume at least two energy drinks a day.

A daily dose of caffeine should not exceed 200 to 300 milligrams, yet a 500 millilitre serving of Mother, Monster or Red Bull contains 160 milligrams of caffeine, and some teens drink three a day. ”They are getting into it before school,” Dr Seaton said. Health professionals are calling for tighter regulations on the availability of energy drinks which, with sales of $593 million a year, make up the fastest growing beverage sector.

<em> Illustration: Cathy Wilcox. </em> Illustration: Cathy Wilcox.

”Teenagers are limited in getting alcohol and tobacco, but there is no limitation on energy drinks. It’s a real free-for-all,” Dr Seaton said. ”Caffeine in high doses is a toxic substance and there has been a couple of reported teenage deaths related to an overdose.”

The high sugar content in energy drinks is just as concerning, says Jane Martin, who leads the Obesity Policy Coalition. One 500-millilitre Red Bull contains the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar.

The health concerns follows a discussion paper presented to the federal government that showed energy drink consumption in Australia and New Zealand has more than quadrupled from 34.5 million litres in 2001 to 155.6 million litres in 2010.

The dangers of excessive caffeine is a ”forgotten thing”, Dr Seaton said.

An Australian study released last year also found a sharp rise in the number of people who reported heart problems, tremors and chest pains after drinking the beverages, particularly teenagers.

Close to 300 calls were made to NSW’s poisons centre regarding adverse reactions to energy drinks between January 2004 and the end of 2010, with more than a third of people attending hospital, the report said.


But the peak body for non-alcoholic beverages, the Australian Beverage Council, argued energy drinks were one of the ”most regulated” in the world, including health warning labels.

”The industry acknowledges energy drinks are a topical issue, but when viewed in the context of the total diet they represent a very small part – unlike other products like coffee,” chief executive Geoff Parker said.

Correction: The original version of this story said one 250-millilitre Red Bull contains the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar. It should have referred to one 500-millilitre Red Bull


Henry Sapiecha

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