Common Precancerous Skin Conditions
There are a few different precancerous skin conditions that may indicate the presence of 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 age 40 or older. This precancerous skin condition is generally found on areas of the body 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 a variety of 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 a wide-brimmed hat 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 in color 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 affected skin, but more than one area of skin may be affected at a time.
Treatment For Bowen’s Disease
A biopsy is generally performed by dermatologists in order 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.