Precancerous conditions of the skin have the potential to develop into non-melanoma skin cancer. The most common precancerous conditions of the skin are actinic keratosis and Bowen’s disease.
Actinic keratosis is also called solar keratosis. It is often found on sun-exposed areas of the skin in middle-aged or older people. Actinic cheilitis is a related condition that usually appears on the lower lips. A person with one actinic keratosis will often develop more. The number of actinic keratoses often increases with age. The presence of an actinic keratosis indicates that a person’s skin has suffered sun damage.
Actinic keratoses are considered slow growing. They often go away on their own, but they may come back. Approximately 1% of actinic keratoses develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) if left untreated. Treatment is required because it is difficult to tell which keratoses will develop into cancer.
The following risk factors may increase a person’s chance of developing actinic keratosis:
Actinic keratosis is most often seen on skin that is frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, the backs of hands or a balding scalp. The signs and symptoms of actinic keratosis may include:
Actinic keratosis is diagnosed during an examination of the growth. If it does not go away with treatment or shows signs of developing into SCC, a skin biopsy will be done.
Treatment options for actinic keratosis depend on the number and location of keratoses. The treatment may include one or a combination of the following:
Bowen’s disease is an early form of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It may be called squamous cell carcinoma in situ. Bowen’s disease involves cancer cells in the epidermis or outermost layer of the skin. Although it can’t spread to the lymph nodes, Bowen’s disease can spread into the deeper layers of the skin if left untreated. When it spreads, it becomes an invasive SCC that then has the potential to spread into the lymph system.
Bowen’s disease may also occur on mucous membranes of the anus and genital skin, such as the penis.
The following risk factors may increase a person’s chance of developing Bowen’s disease:
Bowen’s disease is most often seen on the legs, backs of hands, fingers or face. The signs and symptoms of Bowen’s disease may include:
If the signs and symptoms of Bowen’s disease are present, or if the doctor suspects Bowen’s disease, a biopsy will be done to make a diagnosis. The type of biopsy may be:
Treatment options for Bowen’s disease depend on the number and location of spots. The treatment may be one or a combination of the following:
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