As part of this summer’s countdown to my 70th birthday, I scheduled a series of doctor’s appointments. I’ve been fortunate health wise. I have no chronic conditions; I’ve never been hospitalized, and I’ve never had surgery. My intention is to keep it that way. I wanted t make sure that if there were any potential problems, I’d catch them at an early stage.
In the last two months, I’ve seen my eye doctor, general practitioner, dentist, and gynecologist. All delivered good news. “The cataract in your right eye hasn’t changed. No need for surgery.”“ Marian, your test results are good. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” No new prescriptions. No problems.
My most recent appointment was with my dermatologist. I was nervous before this one. I wondered if the stupid use of a sun reflector when I was in college and the endless hours I spent in the blazing sun during my years representing the scuba diving industry had done more serious damage than the freckles that dotted my skin. Were the hated bumps and blotches that had sprouted on my body like a garden out of control more than an annoyance?
My concerns were not unfounded. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Dr. Lisa Travis at Upper West Side Dermatology listened to my concerns and patiently answered all my questions. Then she pulled out a magnifying glass and examined my body head to toe, inch by inch.
She determined that the blotches and bumps I loathed were Seborrheic Keratoses, common, non-contagious skin growths that can appear anywhere on the skin in middle-aged and older adults. (An unwelcome gift of aging????) Some people get just one. Most people have many. Too bad, I’m in the latter category.
According to the AAD, most Seborrheic Keratoses do not require care. However, they recommend you see a dermatologist if:
- The growth grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds (possible signs of skin cancer).
- Many new skin growths suddenly appear. This can be a sign of cancer inside the body.
- Your skin growth does not look like a typical seborrheic keratosis.
- Your growth is dry, flat, rough, and scaly. It could be an actinic keratosis, which can progress to a type of skin cancer.
- The growth is easily irritated, such as from shaving or clothes rubbing against it.
- You want the growth taken off because you do not like how it looks. An option I may consider some time in the future for the blotches beginning to develop on my face.
There was only one spot, the size of a pinhead, which Dr. Travis said could be problematic and she wants me to watch. To me, it looked like just another freckle. She explained that it was much darker than my other freckles and that color was an important variable.
Before I left the office, I asked Dr. Travis the most important things people my age should do to keep our skin healthy and hopefully, cancer free. She said her recommendations would be the same for people of any age.
First and foremost, be sure always to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. She also said that everyone should examine his or her skin regularly. She suggested that I visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website that has an excellent step-by-step guide for skin self-examination. I did that as soon as I got home, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.
All-in-all, it’s good to know that I’m as healthy as I feel.
I hope you will continue to follow me on my countdownto70.