Records show McCain’s health ‘excellent’

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The long-awaited release of Sen. John McCain’s medical records show the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a cancer-free 71-year-old with a strong heart and threw the health issue back into the court of his likely — and younger — opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.

The upshot of more than 1,100 pages of medical records stretching back to 2000, which reporters pored over for three hours yesterday in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., was that Mr. McCain has health issues commensurate with his age — small non-cancerous lesions, polyps in his colon, an enlarged prostate (which was surgically repaired) and kidney and bladder stones.

The four-term senator, seeking to become the oldest elected first-term president, did have blood in his urine in 2000, which prompted doctors at the world-famous clinic to remove “enlarged prostate tissue,” remedying the malady.

Senator McCain enjoys excellent health and displays extraordinary energy,” said Dr. John Eckstein, one of a team of Mayo physicians who attend to the senator. “And while it’s impossible to predict any person’s future health, I and my colleagues can find no medical reasons or problems that would preclude Senator McCain from fulfilling all the duties and obligations of the president of the United States.”

Dr. Eckstein, an internal medicine specialist, said “there is no concern about prostate cancer.”

By releasing extensive medical records — which, added to the 1,500 pages Mr. McCain released in 1999 during his first run for the presidency, reveal his medical history back to the 1970s — the certain Republican nominee hopes to put the age and health questions behind him. And by putting them out now, their contents will be old news by the time the campaign ramps up after Labor Day.

But the McCain campaign also kicked the issue over to Mr. Obama, the likely Democratic presidential nominee. The 46-year-old appears in excellent health — news cameras have captured him running up and down a basketball court and frolicking shirtless on a beach — but his campaign has not released his medical records.

When it does, Mr. Obama’s likely to face questions about the possible effects of his admitted use of cocaine and marijuana when he was younger. In 1999, George W. Bush’s medical records were heavily scrutinized after rumors circulated he had used cocaine, a charge he vehemently denied.

Dr. Connie Mariano, who headed up the White House medical unit from 1992 to 2001, said there could be numerous long-term effects from the use of cocaine and marijuana, such as “cardiovascular disease (accelerated).”

In addition, Mr. Obama, the child of a black father and white mother, may have inherited genes that put black men at risk for certain diseases. “African-American men also tend to develop prostate cancer earlier than Caucasian men and need to be screened earlier for it,” Dr. Mariano said.

The Obama camp yesterday indicated it would release a summary of the Illinois senator’s records next week.

In the McCain documents, the most serious health concerns were about the senator’s repeated bouts with skin cancer; he has had four precancerous lesions removed in three separate procedures — in 1993, 2000 and 2002. Most were surface growths, but one spot on his temple in 2000 was invasive cancer deemed “intermediate-stage” melanoma.

Mr. McCain underwent nearly six hours of a procedure to remove the dime-sized growth and lymph nodes in his neck. Later tests showed the cancer had not spread there. The surgery left a large scar on his left cheek, a subject doctors addressed yesterday in a summary of their health findings.

“To answer what appears to be numerous questions about the prominence of the senator’s left jaw: this is a result of an absence of soft tissue on the face in front of his ear that makes the masseter (the chewing muscle) over the jaw appear more prominent. To be clear, the swelling is not due to any evidence of cancer,” the doctors wrote.

Mr. McCain now undergoes an in-depth skin cancer check every few months because of a medical history his own dermatologist calls “remarkable” for its number of dangerous melanomas. But there has been no recurrence of the melanoma on his cheek, and doctors yesterday said there is very little chance it will return.

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