Friday, August 10, 2007

Slice of Skin Cancer

It was inevitable that one of the many spots on my skin would be sliced off someday, to be shuttled off on a slide to be biopsied.

It was a small spot on my nose. The doc thinks it is a basal cell skin cancer. I'll get the biopsy results back in a week. Maybe he got it all today. Maybe I'll have to go in for a little surgery.

I'm not overly worried just yet. Thankfully, the spot on my nose didn't look like melanoma, which is the evil twin in skin cancer circles. Getting the big "C" diagnosis wasn't so bad given it wasn't melanoma.

You see a basal cell carcinoma cannot spread so easily to the liver or the lungs or the brain. It spreads rather slowly on the skin, and it mostly can injure our vanity, unless, of course, we let it spread to much before sending it on it's way with a surgeon's scalpel.

I wasn't surprised when I got the diagnosis. I have fair skin (which triples my risk) and I had plenty of severe sunburns growing up near the beach in Santa Monica, California. They say that five or more sunburns doubles your risk of skin cancer, and I had dozens of burns over the years.

Okay, so I said I wasn't too worried, but it does rattle me a bit inside to realize that I am a living statistic, underscoring the epidemic reality of skin cancer in today's world.

Sometimes fiercely independent, I've preferred to treat myself over the years whenever possible. Now, I need to get my somewhat lazy self in to see a dermatologist more often -- perhaps as often as the sun goes into equinox.

P.S. For those of you who didn't know, there is a genetic mutation (in the P16 gene), which makes melanoma more likely in family carriers. Here in Utah, there's a major familial melanoma study going on, which tracks families with both genetic and lifestyle risks for getting melanoma.

I happen to know the core researcher, Dr. Sancy Leachman (an amazing MD/PhD researcher from Yale who's making big waves in genetics research out here). If you're interested in being included in Dr. Leachman's work on melanoma, check out her Familial Melanoma Research Clinic.

No comments: