Although I have been rough on my body for most of my 71+ plus years on this third planet from the sun, I’ve been fortunate to not suffer many of the diseases that seem to hamper and threaten many.
I limp from too many broken bones, suffer other maladies from car, motorcycles and even one helicopter crash over the years but I was lucky to come from a family where the cancer was not prevalent.
With one exception: Skin cancer.
For the last seven months, I have been operated on five times for the removal of skin cancer tissue from my nose, back, chest and left arm. Four of those operations came on dealing with recurring discoveries of carcinoma on my lower left arm.
On Thursday, the surgeons at Carilion removed the longest strip yet of afflicted tissue. If it returns again, the treatment moves to more radical forms of treatment.
I asked the doc is he is trying to cut off my left arm “one piece at a time.” At least he laughed.
Skin cancer normally stems from prolonged exposure to the sun. The location of the carcinoma on the lower outside part of my lower left arm is not a place where the sun normally reaches. I normally wear a jacket when riding a motorcycle and I’ve never had a habit of resting my arm on an open car window while driving.
“The location means you spend a lot of time in the sun in a way where that part of your arm has prolonged exposure to solar radiation,” the doctor said.
Calling sunlight “solar radiation” makes one wince. It does remind us that much of Earth’s sun-filtering ozone layer is less protective now. Oops. Forgot. One does not mention climate change around here.
I managed to make it through 70 years without a positive diagnosis of skin cancer. Yes, I have had bad sunburns many times over the years and I never believed in sunblock until recently.
“Let’s also remember that when you age, your body becomes more brittle and subject to infection,” says another doctor.
Most of my occurrences of skin cancer have been what is called squamous cell carcinomas. It’s worse than basil cell — the most common type — but not as bad as melanoma, which doctors found on one part of my chest but did not reoccur after removal.
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is usually not life-threatening, though it can be aggressive. Untreated, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin can grow large or spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.
Most squamous cell carcinomas of the skin result from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from sunlight or from tanning beds or lamps. Avoiding UV light helps reduce your risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and other forms of skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occurs when the flat, thin squamous cells in the middle and outer layers of your skin develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The mutations tell the squamous cells to grow out of control and to continue living when normal cells would die.
Most of the DNA mutations in skin cells are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds.
But sun exposure doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. This indicates that other factors may contribute to your risk of skin cancer, such as having a condition that weakens your immune system.
Never been in a tanning bed. My immune system checks out. I don’t have “fair skin.” Too much Scottish and Seminole in my DNA.
As some claim, maybe this is just some old fashing karma comin’ round.