BLOG: Sen. McCain, Healthy and Vigorous

Sometimes looks are deceiving. Not so in the case of Senator McCain's healthy appearance during the first presidential debate this week.

Back in May, Carl Cameron and I joined a group of journalists in Phoenix, Ariz., and I looked closely through the 1,000 plus pages of McCain's health records. One thousand pages may seem like a lot, but they include hundreds of pages of administrative documentation not directly related to healthcare. In addition, there were hundreds of pages that documented careful screening rather than actual disease.

The records revealed a vigorous man in good health. He has borderline blood pressure and a history of kidney stones, for which he takes a diuretic. His cholesterol is elevated, and he is taking an effective statin drug (simvastatin) for it. Several of his physicians attested in the records, and again during a phone conference call, to his very high pain tolerance. He has had two procedures done on his right arm, and his shoulders, both of which were fractured when he was a POW. Healed without treatment, his right shoulder was in a deformed position.

Here are some key points that attest to Senator McCain's current state of good health_

- A 2 cm melanoma in 2000 was removed with surgical pathology showing NO spread. Thirty-three lymph nodes were removed and were ALL negative including the highly predictive seminal node. Staging was II B because of the size and depth, and the chance of recurrence now is likely less than 10 percent.

- Other SUPERFICIAL skin cancers include a superficial melanoma in 1993, a preliminary (in situ) melanoma on the left arm in 2000, a basal cell in 2005, and a preliminary (in situ) squamous cell in early 2008. ALL were removed without incident.

- An Echo stress test in March was excellent. McCain showed great exercise tolerance and his heart was normal.

- A colonoscopy, also in March, showed benign polyps.

- 2008 office visits showed normal blood pressure, and labs were unremarkable.

Senator McCain is close to his ideal weight, at 163 pounds. I think that fact, as well as the aspirin and cholesterol drugs he takes, and the fact that his skin is so carefully screened by Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Ariz., are predictive that he will remain in very good health. Like Obama, he is a former smoker, but he hasn't smoked since 1980.

These days, thanks to modern medicine, linear age isn't the only factor that predicts health. My advice to a vigorous Senator McCain is to continue the long walks but to stop the candy bars.