- - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Last Thursday, I had minor surgery to take a small melanoma off my cheek. A melanoma is a very fast-growing and dangerous skin cancer. There are also some very slow growing forms of skin cancer that are not nearly as dangerous. Melanomas, however, can spread quickly and are a serious matter.

I was very fortunate to find the melanoma while it was still extremely small. Stage Zero is the technical term.

All credit goes to Dr. Agnes Chang, who has been monitoring me carefully twice a year. (Now it will be every four months since this melanoma showed up.)

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She warns that the number of melanomas affecting patients is rising rapidly.

Americans love outdoor activities, and they don’t use nearly enough sunscreen. The result is sun damage to the skin. Over time, that damage accumulates and can lead to cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there were nearly 75,000 new cases of melanoma last year and nearly 10,000 deaths. Melanoma can affect patients of any age.

Dr. Chang has convinced me to use a SPF 50 skin moisturizer every day, even if I am not going outside. That is a real change for someone who used to love getting vitamin D.

Getting a good habit late in life, however, doesn’t undo the damage you might have done to your skin when you were young.

Callista suggested I write about this to highlight the importance of healthy skin care and the dangers of skin cancer.

As for me, I had an outpatient operation with just a local anesthetic. Dr. Reza Mirali did a great job and sent me home.

The cut was pretty good size (several inches) because they wanted to make sure they had gotten all of the cancer. We will know more when the lab results come back in a week or so.

In a strange stroke of luck, the great blizzard that hit the mid-Atlantic late last week kept Callista and me at home for four days. I could heal without bothering people with my appearance.

Hopefully, everything will be fine.

I urge you will take this report as a reminder to see your dermatologist regularly and take care of your skin every day.

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