It’s easy to forget about skin cancer in our cooler winter weather. We’re covered up more, playing less golf or tennis outdoors, and our bathing suits are mostly stuck in the drawer. But now that spring is upon us; we’re all back outside playing around our Houston environs.
Now is a good time to remember skin cancer. You should check yourself and look for spots that change. And you should have Dr. Kronberg give your skin the once over, especially as you get older. Remember, some skin cancers are the result of accumulated time spent in the sun.
Just so we all know what we’re looking for, let’s briefly go through the types of skin cancer.
Precancerous, but could be a coming attraction
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are precancerous growths. They are dry, scaly patches that start showing up after your 40th birthday, especially if you have fair skin. AKs form on areas that get lots of sun exposure, such as the back of the hands. If left alone, AKs can progress into squamous cell carcinoma. Dr. Kronberg whips out the trusty can of liquid nitrogen to freeze these little devils. Then they peel off.
Basal cell carcinoma
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) look like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin. They come from accumulated sun exposure. BCCs can form anywhere on the body but are most common on the head, neck, and arms. It’s important that Dr. Kronberg have the chance to find these early, as they can invade surrounding tissue and grow into the nerves and bones, causing disfigurement when removed.
Squamous cell carcinoma
The second most common skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) looks like a red, firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then re-opens. Watch for SCCs on the rims of the ears, the back of the neck, face, arms, chest, and back. SCCs can grow deep into the skin and lead to disfiguring surgical excision.
Melanoma is the word you don’t want to hear. Melanoma is the deadly form of skin cancer. Unlike the other two forms of skin cancer that often show themselves as red, scaly bumps, melanoma is usually a new dark spot on the skin. Moles can turn into melanoma on people with over 100 moles. If left alone, melanoma will start to grow downward and will begin to deposit cancerous cells into the bloodstream. Those cells can travel anywhere in the body, creating tumors nowhere near the original dark spot. Melanoma can be contained and removed if Dr. Kronberg sees it early in its development.