Pre-Cancerous, but Still to be Watched

General Dermatology Houston, TXWe get lots of sun in Houston year round. That’s why we live here, right? We could stay out of the sun, but we could do that in December in Buffalo.

Unfortunately, the sun delivers those rays with some strings attached. It beats up on our skin, causing various mutations in the skin as the skin tries to cope with the ultraviolet rays bombarding it. Skin cancer is the phrase we don’t want to hear, particularly not melanoma. But pre-cancerous growths also result from sun damage. They are called actinic keratoses, and Dr. Kronberg has various methods of dealing with these growths.

What are pre-cancers?

Actinic keratoses are scaly or crusty skin lesions that are the skin’s response to sun damage before becoming skin cancer. Pre-cancers are scaly or crusty skin lesions that 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. They can be light or dark, or even the same color as your skin, to pink or red. 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?

Most of us know now 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 develop skin cancers and pre-cancers.

What does Dr. Kronberg treat pre-cancerous growths?

Dr. Kronberg will not only find these sneaky growths, but she has a variety of weapons to beat up on them.

  • Chemical peels — Peels cause the outer layer of the skin to peel away, including pre-cancers. The healthy skin then grows to replace it.
  • Cryosurgery — This is a fancy term for freezing these unwanted growths with liquid nitrogen. If you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve become very familiar with the aerosol chill of liquid nitrogen! Once frozen, pre-cancers peel off.
  • Topical creams — In recent years, a few drugs have been found to be very effective at stimulating the body’s immune reaction to target pre-cancers and skin cancers and kill them. Aldara and Zyclara are two of these drugs that use immunotherapy to remove the lesions. Fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug, can also work by blocking the cellular function of the pre-cancers.
  • Curettage — This is a fancy way to say “cutting them out.” Because actinic keratoses don’t grow deeply downward, curettage usually doesn’t cause much bleeding.

The key to keeping pre-cancers, and skin cancer, at bay, is a yearly skin check-up with Dr. Kronberg. She will look over all of your skin and find actinic keratoses and possible cancers. Call Dr. Kronberg at 713-771-8941 for your yearly exam.

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