November 25, 2015

Iowa Senate approves teen tanning bed ban

Mark Chelgren

Mark Chelgren

By a slim margin, the Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would ban minors from using commercial tanning beds. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said using a tanning bed is a “dangerous practice” that can be “just as dangerous as smoking.”

“As senators, we vote on a lot of bills, but I don’t think there are that many bills that we have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives like this one is,” Dotzler said.

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, voted against the bill.

“I believe this is something parents should have some say in,” Chelgren said. “Their opinion on what their kids can do means at least as much as our opinion in this room.”

Chelgren said he’s fair-skinned, but didn’t burn as a kid growing up on the west coast because he got what he calls a “base tan.”

“It is not a case of ‘base tanning’ causing the problem, day-to-day tanning causing the problems. ” Chelgren said. “The case and the problem is the burning. It is the excessive use of ultraviolent light whether it be in the sunshine or whether it be in a tanning bed facility that causes the damage to the skin.”

Bill Dotzler

Bill Dotzler

Dotzler said doctors tell him people who have used a tanning bed before the age of 35 have increased their chances of being diagnosed with melanoma by 75 percent.

“We have an opportunity here, ladies and gentlemen of the senate, to maybe stop a few cases — not all of ’em — but we can stop a few cases by the passage of this legislation and maybe save some lives in the state of Iowa,” Dotzler said.

The bill passed on a narrow, 26-23 vote. A similar bill has cleared a House committee and is eligible for debate in the full House.

Senator Grassley proposes commission to focus on ending breast cancer

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

Breast cancer would be eliminated by the end of the decade under legislation being introduced by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. It comes on the heels of a report released at the University of Iowa last week that names breast cancer as the number-one cancer to strike Iowa women and the number-two cancer killer.

“The bill would establish a commission to accelerate the end of breast cancer,” Grassley says. “That’s the title of the commission, the Commission to Accelerate the End of Breast Cancer, to help end breast cancer by a target date of 2020.”

Grassley says there are many fine organizations, charities and research facilities that are pursuing a common goal but they need to be better assembled to work as a unit. His bill, which he says has bi-partisan support, will forge new relationships in the fight against the disease. “It would encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors,” Grassley says, “and it would create opportunities for collaboration across disciplines that might advance the mission of ending breast cancer.”

He notes, the commission would be subject to termination if it doesn’t show progress. Grassley says his legislation would not attempt to replace or revamp agencies like the American Cancer Society or the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but it aims to see them work together more closely. Grassley says, “There is some redundancy but it brings attention to the issue and it brings together in one place all the research that’s going on to know that the research that’s going on is accomplishing the purpose, can it be better directed and emphasis upon the biggest breakthroughs in the fight against breast cancer.”

Grassley’s wife, Barbara, is a 28-year breast cancer survivor. He says, “This issue is personal to me and really, it’s personal to all of us.” The “Cancer In Iowa” report estimates 22,050 breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in Iowa women this year and 390 women will die from it. It says breast cancer is the number-two cancer killer of Iowa women behind only lung cancer.



Report shows lung cancer the top killer of Iowans

Skin melanoma.

Skin melanoma.

The annual “Cancer in Iowa” report doesn’t show a lot of change in the numbers when it comes to projected new cases of cancer and cancer deaths this year.

The report is compiled by the State Health Registry of Iowa based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, where Mary Charlton is an assistant professor of epidemiology.

“It’s relatively stable since last year, our projections are about the same with those numbers,” Charlton says. “Over the last several years though the 16-thousand-900 new cases of cancer have come down a little bit from our projections in 2012 through 2014. Cancer deaths have been stable the last few years, with our projections right at 6,400. And those projections have remains relatively unchanged over the last several years.”

Charlton says better treatment for some types of cancer is part of the reason the numbers have stabilized. She says fore example, treatments for breast cancer have improve and caused the death rate to remain similar. Charlton says they’ve stopped screening as much as they used to for prostate cancer, which means they aren’t finding as many new cases. Lung cancer remains the biggest killer for men and women.

“One out of every four cancer deaths is due to lung cancer, so it’s definitely one of the more deadly cancers, even though it’s not as common as prostate or breast cancer,” according to Charlton. While smoking rates have dropped in the state, Charlton says the odorless, colorless gas called radon has kept lung cancer a concern. “That’s a particular issue here in Iowa. I think people have started to become more and more aware of this issue,” Charlton says. “But people can have relatively high levels of radon in their homes, especially with the newer homes that are built. They are tighter and keep more air inside — as opposed to older, draftier homes that kind of let that gas out. So, radon is another important risk factor to consider with lung cancer.”

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women behind lung cancer — while prostate cancer is second in men behind lung cancer. Charlton says an increasing concern in the study is the number of cases of skin melanoma. “That’s one of the fastest growing cancers in Iowa, and in fact, since the mid-1970s the incidents have quadrupled to the recent time period. So that’s been a major thing to keep our eye on,” Charlton says. Charlton says some of the increase can be attributed to changes in the way melanoma is reported.

She says it’s important to educate Iowans about the problem as it’s one of the most preventable forms of cancer. “Up to 90-percent of melanoma cases are due to ultraviolet light exposure which can obviously be minimized through use of sun screen or protective clothing and not using tanning beds, things like that,” Charlton says. “But for those who are diagnosed with advance melanoma that has already spread, the five-year survival rate for that is only 13-percent. And there hasn’t been a lot of progress made, as it’s very difficult to treat at that stage.” Melanoma rates are highest among older adults, but it is the third most common cancer in kids and young adults.

To see the full report, go to the U-I College of Public Health’s website at:


Restitution begins for mother who faked daughter’s cancer to collect donations

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A restitution hearing was held this afternoon in the case of a southwest Iowa woman who falsely claimed her 5-year-old daughter had cancer and then raised money for her treatment.

Fourth District Court Judge Greg Steensland presided over the hearing for 30-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic. Slauson was unable to make it to attend due to the weather, but she was represented by her lawyer, Jay Mez.

Six people testified at the hearing and provided evidence to the judge of how much they had contributed to Slauson, or the “Super Riley Fund” set up for her daughter. Most presented photocopies of checks, but one woman presented credit card statements. The amounts claimed ranged from $200 to over $3,000. Judge Steensland, Mez and Cass County Attorney David Wiederstein agreed to accept the claims. Now it’s up to the judge to determine how much each person or organization will receive.

Wiederstein noted the total victim restitution amounts to $35,964 and $3,000 has been returned in the form of an RV that was used, leaving a balance of $32,964. But, the amount of funds available to distribute equals just $15,920. Judge Wiederstein said since the amount of claims exceed the available funds, it puts him in a a predicament.

“We’ve already had a situation where we’re trying to figure out what to do with money that shouldn’t have been given out in the first place. As a judge, I cannot exacerbate that by giving out funds that I can’t track,” Wiederstein said. He said he would reimburse those funds that he thinks are provable, in the form of a court order.

Slauson was sentenced to 5 years probation in January and was ordered to continue mental health treatment and not have contact with her 5 children unless requested by her therapist. In November, she pled guilty to charges of child endangerment, administering harmful substances, theft and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Iowa Army of Pink at statehouse to lobby legislators

Kellie Leasure speaks at the state capitol.

Kellie Leasure speaks at the state capitol.

A group of breast cancer survivors in urging legislators to pass a state law that would require health care providers to let women know if they have dense breast tissue, so they can consider having an ultrasound in addition to a yearly mammogram.

Kellie Leasure of Cedar Falls was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer 18 months ago.

“I will not keep quiet about this,” Leasure said during a noon-time news conference at the state capitol. “…This bill is about saving lives.”

Leasure used to get ultrasounds along with her yearly mammograms when she lived in Massachusetts and Colorado because she has dense tissue in her breasts, but was told when she came to Iowa in 2002 that just a mammogram would suffice.

“I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me,” Leasure said. “We’re all warriors here. We’re crusaders here. We’re paving the way.”

Leasure and over two dozen women calling themelves “The Iowa Army of Pink” are at the statehouse today, lobbying legislators on the issue. They say 22 states have laws which require health care providers to notify women if they have dense breast tissue.

This is the third year the legislation has been introduced in Iowa’s legislature. Groups that represent health care professionals have opposed it in the past. They argue there is”no consensus in the scientific community on the relationship between breast density and cancer risk” and say women will be “frightened” into having unnecessary tests.

Atlantic woman given 5 years probation for falsely claiming daughter had cancer

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A southwest Iowa woman who admitted to falsely claiming her 5-year-old daughter had cancer to solicit donations has been sentenced to 5 years probation. District Court Judge Kathleen Kilnoski today also ordered 30-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic to continue mental health treatment and not have contact with her five children.

Kilnoski could’ve given Slauson just two years probation. “I’ve chosen five years, rather than two, because I think we need to have a longterm opportunity to watch how you adjust and proceed with your mental health treatment,” Kilnoski said.

Slauson faced a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison after pleading guilty in November to charges of child endangerment, administering harmful substances, theft and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

Slauson admitted to giving her daughter, Riley, cannabis oil and a cancer drug without a prescription. She also admitted she raised money for her daughter’s supposed cancer treatment, under false pretenses. At her sentencing, Slauson said she “still needs work” to deal with the “voices in her head” and apologized to her family, friends and those who donated money.

“I just want everyone to know I have my flaws and my problems, but I’m working to make amends and the first I shall make amends to is God, my children…and all the people who provide care to my Riley,” Slauson said.

Slauson’s attorney, Jay Mez, had asked for a deferred judgment of conviction, meaning Slauson would have no criminal record. Judge Kilnoski rejected that request. “I think you need to have a criminal record that will alert the public to your behavior, so that others can be on guard, so that no other child potentially can be hurt, and no other vulnerable adult could potentially be hurt by your actions,” Kilnoski said.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Clear Lake says goodbye to police chief


Rex McChesney

Clear Lake’s Police Chief was laid to rest today. Hundreds turned out for the funeral of interim police chief Rex McChesney who died Friday of pancreatic cancer. The city council and mayor honored the 52-year-old McChesney during a special meeting Monday.

Mayor Nelson Crabb read from the proclamation approved by the council, saying that McChesney tried to be fair to everyone he encountered. “Whereas Rex McChesney’s service to the City of Clear Lake, Iowa, and its people regardless of stature in life, economic status, religion, or race has inspired other law enforcement officers to follow his example; and whereas, Rex McChesney will be deeply missed, but leaves and enduring legacy of public service and perseverance that inspire all,” Crabb says.

McChesney was a Clear Lake native who started his law enforcement career in 1983 serving as a correctional officer at the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired by the Clear Lake Police Department in 1986, and was sworn in as the interim police chief in March. He was diagnosed with cancer this spring.

Councilman Mike Callanan had McChesney as a student in school and says he was the right fit as a police officer in Clear Lake. “Chief McChesney was the consummate small town police officer as he was able to combine a great level of professionalism with an outgoing and friendly approach, exhibiting care and concern for the well-being of his community while holding himself to a very high standard for the respect of his position,” according to Callahan Callanan praised McChesney’s professionalism to his job.

“In an era where law enforcement is sometimes under attack, Rex always carried himself above reproach in both his professional and personal life,” Callahan says. ” God bless you Rex for a life well-lived and law enforcement done right. You will be missed.”

McChesney’s funeral was this morning at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Clear Lake. McChesney is survived by his wife and two sons.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City/photo courtesy of the Clear Lake Police Department)