McCain’s checkup

What is the state of Sen. John McCain’s health? He’s 72 years old and has a history of skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, one of the most virulent and deadly forms of the disease, so it’s an important question. His selection of the exquisitely unprepared Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate makes it all the more so.

So far, McCain has refused to release his medical records so the American people can know just how healthy—or unhealthy—he really is. In May, he allowed a small group of selected reporters to view 1,173 pages of medical records that covered the past eight years, but he gave them only three hours to do so. And he allowed no copying, no cameras, no cell phones and no Internet access.

Stage IIA melanoma, the form McCain had, has a survival rate of 60 percent after 10 years. McCain’s cancer occurred eight years ago and was sufficiently advanced to force the removal of the lymph nodes on one side of his neck. It can recur for up to 20 years in metastasized form, likely to be located in one of his important organs. Treatment is terribly difficult and toxic once melanoma has recurred, can incapacitate a person for months, and is rarely successful.

McCain smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 25 years and has several health problems typical of someone his age, including degenerative arthritis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He’s also had cataract surgery. He takes several medications daily.

Voters have a right to full information when choosing a president. More than 2,000 doctors have signed a petition demanding that McCain release his health records—all of them. We support their request.