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Baucus Announces He Has Skin Cancer During Ozone Hearing

May 19, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was chairing a hearing on damage to the ozone layer Friday when he announced that protecting the Earth from the sun’s killing rays had suddenly become very personal.

Motioning to the back of his neck, he said, ″Three and a half hours ago, my dermatologist called me up and told me I have basal cell carcinoma.

″It’s fine. It could be taken care of,″ he assured witnesses who had come before his subcommittee on environmental protection. ″But I understand that it is somewhat caused by ultraviolet rays.″

Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, comes primarily from exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. It strikes between 300,000 and 400,000 people a year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It can cause disfigurement, but it does not spread like other cancers and has a 95 percent cure rate.

Baucus’ subcommittee was gathering testimony on legislative proposals to reduce use of chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, which poke holes in the ozone layer and let the ultraviolet rays through.

CFCs, used in refrigerants and some industrial cleaning materials, are non- toxic when released, but break apart into other chemical substances 10 to 100 years later as they slowly build up and rise into the stratosphere, poking holes in the ozone.

Witnesses on Friday testified about the pros and cons of charging fees on excess profits from the production of CFCs, and the feasibility of using recycling as a way to minimize release of CFCs during manufacturing.

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