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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Precancerous & noncancerous skin lesions

Man worried about lesion on faceSome spots and patches on your skin are not cancer, but many people like to have them removed anyway. Sometimes they can be a sign that you are at more risk of skin cancer.

Solar keratoses (also known as actinic keratoses, AK or sun spots) are rough or scaly patches on your skin in areas exposed to the sun. They're harmless, but they show that the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun has damaged your skin. There is a small risk that they could turn into a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), so they are considered to be precancerous. Read more about solar keratoses.

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.

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.

Seborrhoeic keratoses are common, harmless skin lesions that appear during adult life. They can be flat or raised and may have a smooth or warty surface. They range in colour from pale to brown or even black. They look like they're stuck on to your skin. Read more about seborrhoeic keratoses.

Treating precancerous & non-cancerous skin lesions

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.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical directors, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed May 2021.

Page reference: 87510

Review key: HIMEL-15455