Pre-Cancerous Sun Spots (Solar Keratoses)
What are pre-cancerous sun spots?
Too much sun exposure is a common problem in Australia. Sun exposure causes damage to the skin such as lines and wrinkles, thinning and redness of the skin, loss of normal skin tone and elasticity as well as pre-cancerous sun spots (also known as solar keratoses or actinic keratoses). Pre-cancerous sun spots are considered the first step towards Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer. It is estimated that 1–5% of sun spots develop into SCCs. Areas that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, neck, upper chest, hands and forearms, are more likely to develop sun spots. Therefore, they require treatment for medical and cosmetic reasons.
Click on the treatment tab at the top of this section for more information on how the specialist dermatologists at Southderm, Kogarah, Sydney, can treat your sun spots.
All medical and skin cancer treatments are carried out in our southern Sydney, Kogarah, skin cancer and cosmetic surgery clinic.
How Pre-Cancerous Sun Spots are treated
There are several excellent treatments available at SouthDerm. Treatment can improve the appearance of the skin and also minimise the chances of developing SCCs and the need for more serious treatments. Management of sun spots may include:
- Cryotherapy: cryotherapy involves the application of liquid nitrogen to freeze the sun spots. It is quick and effective in many cases, but may need to be repeated. It is best suited for small areas. It can leave white spots on the skin.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT): a sensitising cream is applied to the surface of the sun spot and the area is then covered for three hours. The lesion is then exposed to a special red light treatment for eight minutes. The light reacts with the sensitised skin cells, causing the pre-cancerous cells to die while the normal cells remain unaffected. This treatment is ideal for treating large areas of sun spots on the face when an excellent cosmetic result is desired. Treatment can usually be completed in one day.
- Anti-cancer cream (5FU): when this cream is applied to sun spots it causes the area to become inflamed and triggers the release of anti-inflammatory cells to repair damaged skin. It can be effective but the skin may appear red and inflamed for one month after treatment.
- Creams to stimulate the immune system (Imiquimod): this cream can be applied to the sun spots to trigger the body’s immune system to attack and destroy the pre-cancerous cells. It is usually applied several times over a one-month period.
- Ingenol mebutate: this novel Australian discovery is a cream that is applied for two or three consecutive days to an area of sun spots. It causes an intense reaction causing redness and swelling, but settles in about one week.