I've always been a lover of the warmth of the sun. As a fair skinned blonde with green eyes (the most senstive eye color to light) I've always been envious of the darker skinned, brunettes with creamy smooth skin. I would spend many hours in the sun, mostly enough to get pink, let it turn, then go out the next day or so for more pink. In time I was able to spend more hours in the sun without burning and was able to get a golden tan.
My sun exposure was not without some bad burns along the way. I fell asleep in the sun on several occasions. I stayed on the east coast beach in South Carolina and didn't notice I was burning because the cool breeze was constant coming from the ocean.
After 40 years of sunning, mostly outdoors in direct sunlight and a couple of years of tanning beds, my body is beginning to tell on my unhealthy practice of not using sunscreen. My dad and my sister have had several skin cancers removed and I am twice as fair as they are. I have been fortunate!
I have regular annual dermatology check ups. So far I have had several sun damage keratoses frozen along with some benign moles and warts. This year I mentioned to my dermatologist that I had large rough patches on my upper chest. None which could be seen by just looking at it. He told me that it was all sun damage (AKs they are called)
What are actinic keratoses (AKs)?
AKs are precancerous patches — or lesions — of skin. They appear on parts of the body exposed to the sun. This includes the face, scalp, arms, or hands. They can look rough, dry, or scaly. They range in color from tan to pink to skin-toned.
Who can get AKs?
Sunlight damages your skin. Over time, this damage may lead to AKs. Anyone can get AKs, but fair-skinned people are most affected. Long-term sun exposure increases the chances of getting AKs. In fact, more than half of older, fair-skinned people who have lived in hot, sunny areas have AKs.
Can AKs turn into skin cancer?
Yes. Reports suggest that up to 20% of AK lesions may transform into a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).* In turn, this type of cancer can spread to deeper tissue. This is why it’s so important to treat AKs seriously and as early as possible.
What are AK treatment options?
There are many options. Only your doctor can determine the appropriate therapeutic option for you. Your doctor can prescribe topical creams like Carac® to treat AKs. Other procedures, such as freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen, are another option.
My dermatologist told me I needed an aggressive treatment for this whole upper chest area or we would be freezing off several AK's a year. It would be easier to get rid of all the AK cells with a topical treatment called CARAC. This is a prescription cream that is applied sparingly once a day for 30 days. Here is the website to find out more about CARAC: http://www.carac.info/default.aspx
I am 18 days into the treatment. I have to say it has been quite uncomfortable and truly unsightly. I have to wear high neck tops to avoid people going "ewww" or "What is that?" I can't complain, after I did bring this on myself. And I have to say this isn't nearly as bad as having to be treated for the dangerous skin cancer. Below is a picture of what this cream does during the treatment. Trust me, his face looks better during the treatment than my chest does.
I wanted to share this experience so that those of you who have been as foolish and careless as I have been can be informed and aware.
1. Wear sunscreen at least 15 spf
2. Have annual skin exams by a dermatologist
3. If you have any blemish or spot on your body that you can't identify or you are concerned about, call your doctor.