Four lesions removed from Bush's face not considered a threat

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGON (AP) _ President Bush had four lesions removed from his face last week, including two caused by a common skin ailment that can lead to cancer if left untreated. None of the four were cancerous, the White House said Monday.

Press secretary Ari Fleischer said the lesions were removed with liquid nitrogen during a brief procedure Friday at the White House. The president had one lesion on each cheek, his forehead and temple.

The two lesions on his cheek were actinic keratoses, a condition caused by exposure to the sun that can develop into cancer, Fleischer said.

The other two lesions were seborrheic keratoses _ waxy- or scaly-looking growths that are not cancerous and become very common as people age. This type of lesion typically isn't removed unless they become irritated or for cosmetic reasons.

In August, during his first physical as president, doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital removed from Bush three small actinic lesions.

Removing the actinic lesions is ``very important'' because ``when they're treated at this point, there's no risk,'' said American Cancer Society skin cancer expert Dr. Darrell Rigel, a New York University dermatologist.

Actinic keratoses reflect sun damage the person incurred years, even decades, earlier. They once were very rare in people under age 60, but as sun exposure increased in the 1980s, doctors now are seeing them not just in the middle-aged like 55-year-old Bush but even in thirty-somethings, Rigel said.

Expect Bush to have more of the lesions found in coming years, Rigel predicted, but he'll be monitored closely and have them removed before they turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell. Still, they are a warning sign that Bush is at slightly higher risk for developing skin cancer in general, he said.

Fleischer disclosed the Friday procedure after reporters noticed spots on the president's face during an appearance celebrating the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr.

``It is not uncommon to notice redness, darkening of the lesion or peeling of the skin (similar to a sunburn) after freezing. As is recommended for all individuals with a history of, or anticipating, significant sun exposure, the president routinely uses sunscreen and receives periodic evaluations,'' Fleischer said in a statement.

The two seborrheic keratoses lesions were removed from Bush's forehead and temple.

``For a man his age, when you're out in the sun a lot as a young man, I'm told this is extremely common,'' the spokesman said.