What are Precancerous Skin Lesions
The presence of Actinic Keratosis (AKs) (pre cancerous skin lesions) on the skin is an indication of sun damaged skin and greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancers such as Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
AK most often appears as a red, scaly area of the skin with a texture similar to sandpaper. It can be painful and may have increased sun sensitivity. Treatment of AKs are very important as it reduces the risk of skin cancer. There are multiple treatment options for AKs, giving us the opportunity to customize a plan for each patient.
A liquid nitrogen spray is used to freeze off precancerous spots. It is most useful for treating individual AK lesions.
When too many spots are present to treat with cryotherapy, treatments that can treat a larger area are used. These include various topical medications that are applied to the skin for days to weeks until precancerous spots are removed. Commonly used medications include imiquimod, 5-fluorouracil cream, diclofenac, and ingenol mebutate (Picato).
This is another form of field treatment that can be performed in the office with excellent lasting results. In many instances we can bill your insurance company for chemical peel treatment of AKs. During your visit we will wash the skin and and apply a topical numbing agent to reduce discomfort during the procedure. Large precancerous growths may be removed with a curette before the skin is washed again. A chemical peel is applied by the provider to ensure even coverage of the sun damaged area. The discomfort is minimal and the procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. You can expect to see some redness and peeling that develops 2-3 days following the procedure similar to a sunburn. The entire healing process takes 1-2 weeks and imparts a lasting reduction in precancerous skin lesions. You may also notice an improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots as a result of the treatment.
Reducing the Risk of Skin Cancer
Regardless of which field treatment is used, a patient’s overall risk of skin cancer can be greatly reduced. A recent study demonstrated an 80% reduction of skin cancer risk in areas treated during the 5 years following treatment.
The main preventative measure for AK is proper sun protection with adequate clothing, a hat, and broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher on all sun exposed skin. Regular skin examinations with your Treasure Valley Dermatology doctor will help identify and treat these precancerous spots prior to their progression to skin cancer.