Unfortunately the sun’s not so keen on us being out under its influence every day. It beats up on our skin, causing various mutations in the skin as it tries to cope with the ultraviolet rays bombarding it. Skin cancer is the 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?
Pre-cancers are scaly or crusty skin lesions that, as the name implies, are the skin’s response to sun damage prior to 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. 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 develops skin cancers and pre-cancers.
What do we do with pre-cancers at Deschutes?
We have various ways of dealing with these scaly little devils at Deschutes.
Chemical peels — Peels cause the outer layer of the skin to peel away, including pre-cancers. 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 Bend long enough, you’ve become very familiar with Mr. Liquid Nitrogen! Once frozen, pre-cancers peel off.
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.
Photodynamic therapy — We first apply a cream or injection to the growth and bomb it with laser light to nuke it.
Curettage — This is a fancy way to say “cutting them out.” Because pre-cancers 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 the team at Deschutes. We love the outdoors as much as you do! Call us at 541-330-0900 for an appointment.