Each year in the United States, 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed. More than 5 million people are living with actinic keratoses and more than 7,000 people die yearly. Now, doctors are using a new therapy to keep the cancer from developing in some patients.
Mary Louise Gramkow spent her life in the sun. She says: "Tennis, gardening and mowing -- that sort of thing. [I am] just an outdoor person." All that sun damaged her legs -- causing a skin condition called actinic keratoses. These thick and crusty lesions are a precursor to skin cancer.
"This is an actinic keratosis that eventually transformed into a squamous cell skin cancer," say dermatologists.
Today, Gramkow is having the rest of the spots treated, hoping to prevent more cancer. Specialists apply Levulinic acid to the lesions to make them sensitive to light. A blue light activates the acid and destroys the lesions. Around 18 hours later, she returns for the second treatment.
However researchers say this treats only around 85 percent of the pre-cancerous growths and is not a cure. Sun exposure will mean more lesions and more needed treatment.
Gramkow had her left leg done a few months ago. She says, "My left leg is very much better, but there are a couple of places that, were too thick and hence have to be done again." She also says it's uncomfortable, but a treatment she's willing to endure again if necessary.