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HealthInfo Canterbury

Precancerous & noncancerous skin lesions

Solar keratoses (also known as actinic keratoses, AK or sun spots) are rough or scaly patches on the skin in areas exposed to the sun. They are harmless, but they are a sign of the skin damage caused by the UV light of the sun. There is a small risk that they eventually turn into a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and so are considered to be precancerous.

If you think you may have any of these, make sure you get regular skin checks with a doctor. The doctor can discuss the pros and cons of treating the solar keratosis, and keep an eye on it. As solar keratoses are a sign of sun damage, people who have them are at more risk of skin cancer. Read about how to prevent skin cancers.

Options for treating these lesions include using liquid nitrogen spray to freeze them, gently scraping the lesion (curettage), or removing it by cutting it out (excision). In certain circumstances your doctor may recommend a cream to treat your lesions. If you are prescribed a cream, it is important that you carefully follow the specific instructions your doctor has given you. You will find information about how to use these creams in the links below.

Seborrhoeic keratoses are common, harmless skin lesions that appear during adult life.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical directors, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed January 2017. Last updated February 2019.

Page reference: 87510

Review key: HIPCS-87510