Common Precancerous Skin Conditions
Precancerous skin comprises several premalignant changes in skin cells that increase the person's likelihood of skin cancer. These premalignant changes often appear as skin growths or lesions found on the outermost layer of skin. Precancerous lesions and growths often appear on sun-exposed body areas, such as the head, hands, forearms, neck, chest, and legs, though they may occur anywhere on the body.
Several different precancerous skin conditions may indicate the presence of basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell skin cancer (melanoma). These include actinic keratosis, Bowen's disease, lentigo maligna, and leukoplakia. It's crucial for patients to understand the causes and signs of each skin condition so they can promptly consult a dermatologist and receive proper treatment.
Few lesions related to actinic keratosis (AK) turn into squamous cell skin cancer. However, this precancerous skin condition should be professionally reviewed and treated with the latest dermatology methods, such as those used by our dermatologists at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center.
Actinic Keratosis Causes
Actinic keratosis is caused by long-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays and is usually found in patients aged 40 or older. This precancerous skin condition is generally found on areas commonly exposed to the sun, such as the ears, face, chest, forearms, hands, and neck. While anyone can develop AK, the likelihood of development increases with a combination of environmental and personal factors, such as those that:
- Have a tendency to freckle and/or burn when exposed to the sun;
- Have blond or red-colored hair and blue or light-colored eyes; and
- Live in a sunny environment or have previously experienced frequent and/or severe sunburns.
Actinic Keratosis Symptoms
Common symptoms of actinic keratosis include the following. If you discover any of these symptoms during a routine self-skin examination, contact Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center right away to schedule a consultation with a dermatologist.
- A small patch of dry, rough, and/or scaly skin, usually less than one-inch in diameter
- The patch is flat or slightly raised on the top skin layer
- The color of the patch is varied between brown, pink, and red and may burn or itch
Treatment For Actinic Keratosis
Some actinic keratoses disappear without medical treatment, but most reappear with chronic sun exposure. A dermatologist may use various methods for AK treatment, such as topical medications, photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy, and curettage. The majority of actinic keratosis lesions are treated and removed as a precaution.
How To Prevent Actinic Keratosis
While it is not feasible to reverse signs of skin damage from previous instances of unprotected sun exposure, patients can prevent the development of additional skin damage and avoid developing actinic keratoses by avoiding indoor tanning beds, minimizing sun exposure by wearing wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers the arms and legs, applying sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 35 to all exposed skin before going outside − reapply every two hours, and telling your dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center of any changes or developments to your skin.
Bowen’s disease is an early form of skin cancer that’s easily treatable if caught early by a dermatologist. Also called squamous cell carcinoma in situ, this skin condition is predominantly found in white men over age 60, and it generally affects the epidermis — the outermost layer of skin. Bowen’s disease presents with symptoms similar to psoriasis or eczema, so proper diagnosis is required for effective treatment.
Bowen’s Disease Causes & Symptoms
The precise cause of Bowen's disease is unknown, but this precancerous skin condition is generally linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV); long-term sun exposure or use of tanning beds, and a weakened immune system. The most prevalent symptom of Bowen's disease is a patch of skin with clear edges that doesn't heal over time. The patch of skin is usually pink or red and has a crusty or scaly texture. It appears most often on areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun, such as the crown of the head and lower legs. Most individuals with this condition have one patch of the affected skin, but more than one area may be affected at a time.
Treatment For Bowen’s Disease
A biopsy is generally performed by dermatologists to diagnose Bowen's disease. If the condition is discovered, a range of sun damage skin treatments can be used for treatment, such as medicated topical ointments, curettage, cryotherapy, and photodynamic therapy. Your dermatologist will determine whether follow-up treatment is required to treat the condition.
How To Prevent Bowen’s Disease
Prevention focuses on reducing sun exposure, especially during the summer months and always applying — and reapplying — sunscreen when spending time outdoors. A dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center can also provide tips and information specific to your situation.
Lentigo maligna (LM) can be a precursor of melanoma and should be inspected by a dermatologist right away. LM is found in areas most exposed to the sun, and it stays on the outer layer of the skin. When it penetrates deeper, lentigo maligna becomes lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM).
Lentigo Maligna Causes
While the exact cause of lentigo maligna melanoma is unknown, sun exposure is by far the biggest risk factor. Other possible causes include having fair or light skin, a family history of skin cancer, being male, being over 60 years old, and having a history of precancerous skin spots.
Lentigo Maligna Symptoms
It’s important to know the difference between lentigo maligna and lentigo maligna melanoma. While one grows slowly, LMM spreads rapidly, typical of cancer. Other symptoms of LMM include the increased thickness of the patch, multiple colors (black and blue) showing, bleeding, itching, and stinging.
Treatment For Lentigo Maligna
The most common treatment for lentigo maligna melanoma is surgical removal of the patch by a dermatologist. Unlike some other types of skin cancer, LMM tends to reappear frequently so a doctor may remove some of the skin surrounding the patch as well. If patients have complications preventing them from undergoing surgery, we may recommend radiation therapy, cryosurgery, or a topical imiquimod (anti-tumor) cream.
What Is Sun Damage?
Sun damage − commonly referred to as photodamage − encompasses a wide range of changes to the skin caused by exposure to UV rays and the sun. These changes can affect all skin layers, including the epidermis, or top layer; the dermis, or middle layer; and subcutaneous fat, or bottom layer.
Sun Damage Symptoms & Causes
Sun damage is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation, either from the sun or an artificial source, such as indoor tanning beds. Exposure to the sun can cause wrinkles, freckles, discolored areas of the skin, or mottled pigmentation, sallowness, telangiectasias (dilation of small blood vessels), and elastosis (destruction of elastic and collagen tissue).
Areas of the body exposed to the sun are also likely to experience the following.
- Dry skin
- Thickened skin texture
- Fine lines and deep-set wrinkles
Treatments For Sun Damage
Depending on the severity and extent of sun damage, certain sun-damage treatments may be effective in reducing the appearance of damage to the skin. Over-the-counter and prescription chemical exfoliants, such as retinol and glycolic acid, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, can help reduce the appearance of sun damage. For patients with more severe sun damage, our Boardman dermatologists may recommend one or more of the following cosmetic treatments.
While microdermabrasion uses manual exfoliation to remove the upper layers of skin, chemical peel works by effectively removing dead skin cells on the skin's surface, revealing refreshed and clear skin beneath. Depending on the severity of sun damage, there is a wide range of different strengths of chemical peels: superficial, medium, and deep. During all three, topical chemicals are applied directly to the skin to remove the epidermis (outermost skin layer) in order to stimulate skin regeneration and improve the appearance of the skin.
An injectable aging skin treatment that temporarily paralyzes targeted muscles and prevents the muscles from becoming furrowed or wrinkled. Botox® is a noninvasive dermal filler that effectively reduces the appearance of wrinkles and facial creases caused by sun damage. It targets the neurotransmitter in the brain called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine causes muscle contraction in the face and binds the muscles to prevent the skin from tightening. Botox treatments typically last 3−6 months and may require repeated treatments to effectively maintain the results.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
For patients seeking another noninvasive treatment, laser treatments provide effective remediation of sun damage and other dermatological skin conditions. During treatment, short, pulsating beams of light penetrate through each layer of skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines, scars, wrinkles, and superficial skin pigmentation. Treatments with laser resurfacing likewise help improve skin tone and texture and minimize the appearance of facial pores and wrinkles.
Soft Tissue Fillers
As with Botox® Cosmetic injections, other dermal fillers provide patients with more youthful-looking skin through safe and non-invasive treatment. Skincare specialists administer fillers by injecting either hyaluronic acid or calcium hydroxyapatite into the face. This type of treatment replaces the skin's natural collagen lost due to sun damage. The effects of dermal fillers are immediately visible, and it is recommended for first-time patients seeking sun-damage treatment.
How To Prevent Sun Damage
Most sun damage can be prevented by following these steps and other sun damage prevention methods recommended by your dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center. To learn more, contact our office today.
- Be aware of certain prescription medications that can increase the skin's susceptibility to sun damage.
- Limit the amount of time spent outside between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or when the sun is at its highest each day.
- Liberally apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 35 before going outdoors or being exposed to the sun − reapply sun protection often.
- Wear clothing that covers your skin, such as long sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors and sunglasses with UV protection, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Precancerous Skin Treatments In Boardman, OH
If you've been diagnosed with a precancerous skin condition, prompt treatment is crucial to stopping the progression of skin cancer. Our team uses the latest tools and techniques to diagnose and treat precancerous and cancerous skin conditions for patients of all ages. To learn more about precancerous skin treatments in Boardman and Warren, OH, and our individually tailored dermatologist treatments, call Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center.