Last month CNY Central's Jim Kenyon underwent minor facial surgery to biopsy three patchy areas that were suspicious for possible skin cancer. All three biopsies showed Kenyon has a pre-cancerous condition called actinic keratosis.
Last week he had a follow up visit with Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Mark Potenza. Potenza says the number of patients he's seeing for pre-cancerous and cancerous skin conditions is growing at an alarming rate. He told Kenyon that he may be predisposed for pre-cancerous skin conditions which he described as "fair features, sun sensitive skin, sun exposure over a long period of time, not over 1 or 2 years but over 20 or 30 years. That's how long it takes for the sun to create a pre-cancer."
As part of his follow up visit, Kenyon had to undergo a full body skin examination to look for other suspicious areas for skin cancer. Physicians Assistant Lydia Anders used a magnification glass with an attached light to inspect his body, literally from head to toe. At one point she told Kenyon, "Your skin type is definitely set up for skin cancer."
It didn't take long before Anders focused on an area on the right side of his face. "On this cheek here you have a few pink patchy areas." she noted. Those areas will be removed and sent off to a lab for analysis during a future office visit.
Jim Kenyon decided to document his experience to raise awareness about a problem which some experts say is becoming an epidemic. Doctor Potenza told him that had the biopsies come back positive, he would have contracted either basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer. Potenza says actinic keratosis is not associated with melanoma which is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma has increased to the point where 1 in 36 for men will contract the disease at some point during their lifetimes. The lifetime probability rate for women is 1 in 55. Last year, 70,230 Americans were expected to be diagnosed with melonoma and 8,790 would die from the disease. Melanoma most often shows itself as a dark, irregular mole that often will change in shape and color. The danger with melanoma is that it can spread cancer throughout your body.
Anders didn't find evidence of melanoma on Kenyon, but she did find an irregular mole on his right arm that needed to be measured and recorded for future examinations.
Potenza instructed Kenyon, "You're going to pay attention to spots that look like the ones we biopsied and if you find one... you're going to call us." ??
It will also be up to Kenyon to take common sense precautions against the harmful rays of the sun. Potenza said they include:
- Avoiding exposure to the sun between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm
- Wearing sunscreen
- Wearing protective clothing
- Wearing a hat while outside
"The sun...makes us all feel better. I don't think you can put that aside." Potenza says, "but there's certain things to do to protect yourself so you can experience the benefits of the sun."