With our sunny weather in Houston, we spend lots of time outdoors walking, golfing, at the Gulf, or just in the backyard.
If only the sun would cooperate. The ultraviolet rays that rain down on our skin cause the skin to darken as a form of protection. But it also causes various mutations in the skin as UV rays damage the cells. Skin cancer is two words we don’t want to hear, particularly not melanoma. But pre-cancerous growths also result from the sun damage.
What are pre-cancers?
As the name implies, pre-cancers are scaly or crusty skin lesions that are the skin’s response to sun damage prior to becoming skin cancer. They appear on the places we get the most sun exposure. Pre-cancers often appear as elevated growths that may be rough in texture, often resembling warts. If left to their own devices, pre-cancers can one day become squamous cell carcinomas, the most common form of skin cancer.
Why do they develop?
With all of the attention now given to sun damage, you’d pretty much have had to be on Mars the past decade or so to not know that the sun is the culprit behind most of our wrinkles, not to mention skin cancers. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet rays damage and break down the fibers in the skin called elastin, making the skin lose its elasticity and firmness. With more and more damage, the skin loses is immune function and begins to develops skin cancers and pre-cancers.
Here’s how Dr. Kronberg treats pre-cancers
Dr. Kronberg has various ways of dealing with pre-cancers.
Cryosurgery — This is a fancy term for freezing these unwanted growths with liquid nitrogen. If you’ve lived in a sunny place like Houston for long, you’re probably familiar with this method of removing pre-cancers. Once frozen, the growths peel off.
Chemical peels — Peels cause the outer layer of the skin to peel away, including pre-cancers. Healthy skin then grows to replace it.
Curettage — This is a clinical way to say “cutting them out.” Because pre-cancers don’t grow deeply downward, curettage usually doesn’t cause much bleeding.
Topical creams — In recent years, a few drugs have been found effective at stimulating the body’s immune reaction to target pre-cancers and skin cancers and kill them. Fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug, can also work in a cream by blocking the cellular function of the pre-cancers.
The key to keeping pre-cancers, and skin cancer, at bay is a yearly skin check-up with Dr. Kronberg. Call us at 713-771-8941 for an appointment.