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Precancer cells and 'barnacles of old age' removed from Bush's face

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Neither of the two types of lesions President Bush recently had removed from his face contained cancer cells, but one is of a type that medical research has shown could develop into cancer.

The president had four lesions removed from his face last week -- two "actinic keratoses" from his cheeks and two "seborrheic keratoses" from his forehead and temple, the White House revealed Monday.

A White House doctor used liquid nitrogen to remove the lesions Friday.

Actinic keratoses are precancerous cells. In about 10 percent of cases, the cells can transform into squamous-cell carcinoma, the second-most-common skin cancer, which affects some 200,000 people a year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Facts about Actinic keratoses 

The precancerous growths are most commonly found on men between 50 and 60, but can afflict anyone who has a fair complexion, light-colored hair and has had a lot of exposure to the sun, said CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Lesions are typically found on sun-exposed body parts-- the face, ears, bald scalp, neck and arms -- and develop as rough-textured, scaly or crusty bumps. Doctors can usually determine the type of growth by its appearance.

The president's lesions were in their "very early" stages of development and were similar to three lesions removed from the president's face during his August physical, a White House statement said.

"Given the prevalence and benign nature of the lesions, standard procedure is freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen," the statement said. "No biopsies were indicated, nor were any taken."

Red spots were visible on the president's face Monday during his only public event -- an appearance at the White House with several Muslim children to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The other type of lesion Bush had removed, seborrheic keratoses, are sometimes called "barnacles of old age." While their cause is unclear, they become more numerous with age, research has shown. They are benign and are removed for cosmetic reasons or if they become irritated.


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