Preventable Plot Premise:

Laura Linney's Melanoma

in "The Big C"

Actress Laura Linney appears to crave challenge.  Her character on the Showtime series “The Big C,” has cancer.  Realistically, for her age and fair skin, the cancer is stage 4 melanoma, starting with a black skin growth from sun exposure that has metastasized throughout her body.  It is a testament to her acting abilities that she somehow manages to infuse her performance with humor .  Yet we hope that this dramatic premise, a young person dying of melanoma, will soon become an historic footnote rather than the central theme of a series.


For the most part, melanoma skin cancer is preventable and treatable.  Avoiding sun burns and tanning, especially for those with fair-skin, will limit the risk.  Surgically removing early superficial melanoma can be curative.  However, once the cancer has thickened and spread to lymph nodes and beyond, as in Linney’s role, the prognosis becomes grim.

In an impulsive moment, Linney takes some sun...
...the same rays that put her in danger in the first place.


In the last two years, incredible research breakthroughs have occurred.  Experimental immune treatments have achieved cancer remission in certain patients with metastatic melanoma. Hold on, tanning fans, don’t toss the sunscreen yet.  Unfortunately, the cancer appears to regroup and become resistant to treatment.  But there is hope that soon, combination therapies will make this deadly cancer a curable condition.  That Hollywood types will have to look elsewhere for a dramatic plot line seems a small price to pay.

© 1996-2011 Vail Reese M.D.

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