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Interview


CS: I’ve tested all of the products out there but you have to find out what’s best for you. You can get some gluten- free foods on prescription but there’s a lot of fuss about removing them from prescription, because many people don’t understand why you should be able to get food on prescription. It’s a medical condition and if you can get Nicotine Replacement Therapy on prescription, you should also be able to get gluten-free foods on prescription.


You have already talked about being diagnosed with coeliac disease, have you had any other health scares? CS: I’ve had skin cancer twice, once on my face and on my back, too. Back in the ’70s, when we didn’t know that skin cancer was caused by the sun, I used to have a sunbed and lie on it everyday and then we’d go on holiday with the family and I’d top up my tan. I was always very deeply tanned in those days. One day I was shaving and noticed something on my cheek and it turned out to be skin cancer. I decided to do the operation to remove the tumour on the TV show—it’s the best way to show the viewers what it looks like and what the procedure to remove it involves. It was the size of a 50 pence piece. Then a couple of years later my wife who is a nurse said to me: ‘you’ve got a mark on your back like the one on your face.’ I got it checked out and removed. I was lucky because out of the three types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma; basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, I had the second type, basal cell carcinoma, which is the most treatable and least threatening kind.


You’re recognised internationally as an expert in smoking cessation and nicotine addiction. Why did you become so involved and passionate on this particular subject? CS: It was all because a patient came


18 DEAR DOCTOR WITH DR CHRIS STEELE


to see me one day asking for help. He stumped me, because I didn’t know how to help him. My professional pride took over and I said to him, ‘come back to me in a week and I will help you.’ And for a week I researched solidly to find a way of helping him. I came across aversion therapy, which is a form of psychological treatment. This involves a person smoking one cigarette after another until the person vomits. This is then followed by electric shock treatment, too. It worked and after that I saw as many patients as I could, treating them at home for nicotine addiction.


What do you think is the biggest health risk facing the nation today? CS: One of the biggest health risks is a lack of vitamin D. I don’t take many supplements but the one I do take is vitamin D. It’s a ticking time bomb— kids are now getting rickets because they’re lacking vitamin D. People need 15 minutes each day in the sunlight, or if you can’t get sunlight, oily fish contains a lot of vitamin D. The medical profession has learnt a


lot about vitamin D in the last 10 years alone. There’s been a lot of research about links to heart disease and cancers. We still don’t understand the full power of vitamin D.


How do you combat stress? CS: Gardening! I love gardening and I have so many plants, my wife goes mad because I’ll come home with yet more plants. Gardening is a great stress reliever.


• Since starting out as a medical practitioner in Manchester’s student quarter of Fallowfield over 40 years ago to becoming one of the most famous doctor’s on British television today, our Guest Editor Dr Chris can be seen regularly on ITV’s weekday show This Morning, when he tackles the nation’s health and medical concerns. 


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“I could write a book on what I’ve seen behind the scenes on the show. You get to see the real person and their demands and requests behind the scenes”


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