Australia has one of the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. Melanoma is the third most common cancer and skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.
At Medical Skin Clinic Australia we provide a service that aims to identify skin cancers early to ensure best possible outcomes through skin checks, monitoring, biopsies and treatments of any suspicious lesions.
We currently understand a number of causes of skin cancer. These aspects can therefore be understood, avoided or educated about. However there are still some unanswered questions surrounding their development.
At Medical Skin Clinic Australia we will help you to identify some of your individual risk factors and advise you how you can protect your skin and prevent damage.
Sun exposure can also cause skin changes known as solar keratosis or actinic keratosis (commonly known as sunspots).
These are of concern as they are felt to be pre cancerous lesions, which means if left untreated they have the potential to turn into a skin cancer – commonly a squamous cell carcinoma.
We all know we need to protect ourselves from the sun and most now know how this should be accomplished.
How good a sunscreen is at protecting you from UV radiation is measured by its sun protection factor or SPF.
SPF measures HOW LONG it will take for UVB rays to redden the skin when using the sunscreen, compared to how long it will take without sunscreen.
Early detection of a skin cancer is essential to reduce your risk of harm.
At Medical Skin Clinic Australia we recommend having a skin check with one of our doctors so you can discuss your individual risk factors, understand what to look for, when to seek help and ensure early detection. A skin check by a doctor is commonly recommended every 2-3 years however your individual characteristics may alter this.
At Medical Skin Clinic Australia, a doctor always performs a clinical mole mapping.
This involves a fully body examination of your skin by the doctor, who uses an instrument called a dermatoscope. This instrument allows the doctor to see your moles at a higher magnification.
After a skin examination has been done, it is possible the doctor may find a mole or skin lesion that they are concerned about which may need some treatment.
Treatment for skin cancers can vary depending on the type of skin cancer, its size, its location and its depth. The doctors at Medical Skin Clinic Australia are here to help and support you. They will explain all possible options and allow you to chose a solution you understand and are happy to progress with.
Medical Skin Clinic Australia offer a skin treatment called Photodynamic Therapy.
Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that can be used for a number of different problems. Its main use is in the treatment of pre malignant skin lesions such as solar keratosis and the treatment of skin cancers. It can also be used for skin rejuvenation, acne, rosacea and wound healing.
Pre Cancerous lesions / Solar keratosis
Sun exposure can also cause skin changes known as solar keratosis or actinic keratosis (commonly known as sunspots). These are of concern as they are felt to be pre cancerous lesions, which means if left untreated they have the potential to turn into a skin cancer – commonly a squamous cell carcinoma.
The risk of a solar keratosis turning into a skin cancer is not known but the rate it thought to be about 5-20%. It is not possible to tell which will become a cancer and which will not, so all are identified and treatment is advised.
Having solar keratoses also highlights that your skin has had enough sun exposure to cause DNA damage and the resulting development of pre cancerous lesions, which in itself increases your individual risk of getting skin cancers.
How to Identify a Solar Keratosis?
Solar keratosis or Actinic Keratosis are usually flat or slightly raised red, tan or pink areas on the skin with a scaley or crusty surface that feels rough like sandpaper and does not soften . They can gradually increase in size and may disappear and the reappear during their early stages.
They commonly appear on sun exposed areas such as the face, scalp, temples, nose, ears, lips, hands and forearms.
Who is at Risk?
If you have had significant sun exposure you are at risk of getting solar keratosis but they are commoner in those who:
- Have fair skin
- Over 40 years of age
- Spent a lot of time outdoors
- Have used solariums
- Have had an organ transplant
Warning signs of a solar keratosis becoming a cancer
Ensure you get a lesion checked by a Doctor at the Clinic if you notice:
Any change in a solar keratosis, but especially if it is becoming thicker, the top is developing more of a crust or thick horney growth, if it is tender or develops a sore or ulcer that doesn’t seem to heal.
At Medical Skin Clinic Australia we will help you identify lesions that are of concern and aim to give you up to date evidence based advise of the best treatment options.
If treated early almost all solar keratosis can be removed without turning into a skin cancer. Left untreated 2-5% can turn in to a squamous cell carcinoma.
There are a number of ways Medical Skin Clinic Australia can treat solar keratosis. The options can be discussed with you during your consultation so that you understand the pros and cons of each and which works with your lifestyle.
Treatments may be tailored to not only treat the visible lesions but also the surrounding damaged skin that may currently look normal but has the potential to also form pre cancerous lesions. Unfortuantley the sun does not shine just on one spot of skin, so the skin surrounding the lesion of concern is often damaged aswell. It is possible to have up to 10 times as many invisible lesions as visible lesions. Treatments where the solar keratosis of concern PLUS the surrounding skin is treated are called Field Treatments.
Treatment options include but are not limited to:
Cryotherapy – This involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the abnormal cells in the visible lesion.
Prescription creams – There are a number of prescription creams available that can be applied daily to the lesions over a period of three days to three weeks. These creams work in different ways to kill the damaged cells within the lesions. They can cause the area treated to flare up and cause mild to severe redness, blistering and swelling. A benefit is that they can also treat lesions that are not visible and some early skin cancers ie field treatment.
PDT – A cream is applied to the lesions and sometimes the surrounding skin as a field treatment. The cream is then activated by sitting under a light that kills the damaged cells.
Minor Surgery – Generally not a usual measure for removing solar keratosis, but it may be recommended if a lesion looks to be showing early signs of a squamous cell cancer or is not responding to therapy as expected.
How to Prevent Solar Keratosis
Prevention of new lesions and worsening of lesions present is to reduce sun exposure.