Solar keratoses and skin cancer

Preventing solar keratoses is preventing skin cancer

UV radiation and the risk of skin damage

Wherever there is sunlight, there is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin damage. Skin damage from sun exposure is cumulative and can take years, or even decades, to appear visibly. Each time your unprotected skin is exposed to the sun’s UV rays, changes take place in the structure of your skin’s cells. Too much exposure to these UV rays causes the skin to become permanently damaged. This damage also affects the immune system in the skin, reducing its ability to identify and attack newly forming skin cancer cells. 

Types of skin cancer

There are two main types of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma.
• Melanoma is the most dangerous and aggressive form and can be fatal;
• Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most prevalent form of skin cancer, and is seldom fatal, but the surgical treatment is painful and can disfigure the skin.

Both forms of skin cancer can usually be prevented by protecting yourself against the rays of the sun and avoiding getting sunburnt. The sooner the skin cancer is discovered and treated, the better the chances of recovery. 

That is why it is important to understand the symptoms and check your skin on a regular basis, so you can identify potential changes as early as possible.

In most cases, melanomas appear as a flat brown spot on the skin that change in colour, shape and/or size over a period of time. If left untreated, these spots may become bigger, irregular in shape and darker in colour. 

Non-melanoma skin cancer is often characterised by scaly red patches or small papules and plaques that grow, irritate, possibly bleed, and may turn into open wounds. There may also be pigment changes in the form of brown or pink plaques or areas of small, eczema-like patches made up of small blisters.

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. He or she can give you a formal diagnosis and, if necessary, provide appropriate treatment.

Solar keratoses – a precursor to skin cancer

Solar keratoses can be a precursor to non-melanoma skin cancer such as Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). It may in fact be an early stage of this type of skin cancer. By treating your solar keratoses lesions at an early stage you reduce the risk of development into SCC. 

Even though relatively few solar keratoses lesions actually develop into cancer, it is not possible to know which lesions will do so. That is why specialists recommend treating all solar keratoses lesions. 

Tell the signs of sun damaged skin

It can take years to develop solar keratoses. If left untreated solar keratoses can develop into non melanoma skin cancer. By checking your skin regularly you can detect any skin damage early . 

Click here for more information on how to check your skin.