What You Should Know About Precancerous Skin Growths

According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. August A. Natalie, precancerous skin growths are an early sign of extensive damage by UV rays. It is good to find these precancerous growths early on, to treat them before they develop into cancer. There are things you should know about precancerous growths.

  1. Actinic Keratoses (AK) are the proper name for precancerous skin growths. “They are commonly dry or scaly patches. Most people see their first AKs after 40 years of age because AKs tend to develop after years of sun exposure,” noted Dr. Natalie. “They usually form on the skin that gets lots of sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms.”
  • Treatment can prevent a precancerous skin growth from progressing to skin cancer. “Some precancerous skin growths go on to become a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma,” added Dr. Natalie. “There’s no way for your dermatologist to know which ones will progress to skin cancer.” When an AK is removed in can no longer develop into skin cancer. Your treatment plan many involve going to your dermatologist’s office for a treatment, such as cryotherapy or a specialized light treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT). You may also need to apply medication at home.
  • Sun protection is important in preventing further development of new precancerous skin growths.
  • Lifelong skin cancer exams can be life-saving. Precancerous skin growths may look harmless and not seem like a good reason to visit the dermatologist when in fact, having just one precancerous skin growth means that you are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Early detection saves lives so be sure to schedule an annual skin cancer screening with a board-certified dermatologist.

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