Types of Pre-Cancerous Lesions

One of the most common types of cancer, skin cancer develops on skin that is usually exposed to the sun. In rare cases, it can also occur on skin that is rarely or never exposed to the sun. To reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, limit or avoid sun exposure and check your skin for any suspicious changes as often as possible. Among the things you should check for are pre-cancerous lesions. The following are the different types of pre-cancerous lesions and how to properly deal with them.

AFX or Atypical Fibroxanthoma

An uncommon tumor that is typically found on the ears, scalp or other areas of the skin that is exposed to the sun, AFX usually occurs on elderly patients. It has the potential to behave aggressively and metastasize. Its treatment options include Mohs micrographic surgery, wide local excision and C & D or curettage and desiccation. Once the tumor is removed, a follow-up checkup is required to monitor recurrence or signs of metastases.

Melanoma In Situ

Also known as lentigomeligna, melanoma-in-situ can lead to invasive melanoma. Though this type is lesion is not life-threatening, excision is a necessary treatment option. In a 50-year lifetime, melanoma-in-situ has a 5% risk of developing into malignant melanoma. Hence, complete excision of this type of lesion is important to determine its true nature.

It is also recommended to remove an additional 5mm of the surrounding skin as the lesion might have affected the areas beyond the visible borders. For elderly patients, the risk of developing melanoma is very low and may not be required. However, repeat biopsies are necessary to make sure that the melanoma is growing from within.

Actinic Keratosis

Though actinic keratosis is not cancerous, it comes with a risk of developing skin cancer. It is caused by over exposure to the sun and is typically found in individuals with fair skin. Usually, this lesion appears in areas like the ears, face, forearms and other sun-exposed skin. They appear flat, small and scaly like sandpaper.

They are more easily identified by feel than how they look like. If left untreated, this lesion can progress into a cell cancer called squamous cell cancer. If this lesion is detected early on with a doctor's checkup and examination, the development into squamous cell cancer can be prevented. Treatments for this lesion include freezing and applying topical chemotherapeutic agents like Effudex or Aldara. If the lesion reappears after two treatments, get a biopsy to rule out this type of skin cancer.

Atypical Melanocytic

Atypical melanocytic lesions are mostly benign but have a high risk of developing melanoma. These lesions are also known as atypical melanocytic hyperplasia, dysplastic mole or atypical mole. Visual characteristics that may require further evaluation through biopsy include asymmetrical mole (one side is different from the other), irregular, uneven, or blurred borders, abnormally dark color, more than 6mm in diameter, mole's appearance changes color, shape and size. Once these lesions are diagnosed, excision is recommended to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Have your skin checked for any pre-cancerous lesions right away to prevent the development of skin cancer. Detection is key in prevention so time is of the essence.

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