A couple months ago, I saw a news report that Hugh Jackman, the actor, was sporting a band aid on his nose after having a basal cell carcinoma removed. He said it was a small spot on his nose and he had ignored it for a while.
His revelation, originally made on Instagram, made me wonder about a small red spot on my cheek. I showed it to my wife and we agreed to watch it for a while. A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to get it checked out. As recently as a half an hour before I left for the dermatologist’s office, I wondered if I was making something out of nothing.
In about 30 seconds, the doctor’s physician assistant told me I had an Actinic Keratosis, a precancerous lesion caused by long-term exposure to the sun. Not a big deal itself, but it does have the potential to turn into a squamous cell carcinoma. In just a couple more minutes, the PA froze the lesion and told me to come back in a couple months for a follow up. That was it.
I remember the days when putting on lotion for the sun meant oil that made our tans darker, not lighter. There was even a brief period in the late 1980s when I worked at a gym in South Charleston, that I used a tanning bed. As a diver, and general water dog, I’ve spent a lot of time in the sun with sunlight glaring off the water directly into my face. I’ve gotten sunburns on my face, my shoulders and arms, and the tops of my ears.
If you have a spot on your skin, anywhere, that doesn’t seem quite right; if it doesn’t seem to heal, is scaly, red or painful, even if it is really small, have it checked out. (The spot on my face was about the size of a pencil eraser.) Early detection of skin cancer is the key to increasing your chances of recovery. If you notice a spot on a loved-one, say something about that, too.
I’m not going to pretend as many people read this as pay attention to Hugh Jackman, but if it makes one or two people think and get a small spot checked out, that will make me very happy.
Yes, we are in the midst of a winter that won’t seem to quit and we are all praying to see the sun again. The last thing anyone is thinking about is sunburns and skin cancer. But every year, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other form of cancer. And it can kill.
Don’t ignore it..