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Too much exposure to UV or ultraviolet rays causes sunburn by penetrating the outer skin layers and passing to the deeper layers where they kill or damage skin cells, Too much or severe sun damage can also result in skin cancer. If you don’t have a lot of melanin, have fair skin or burn easily in the sun, then protecting yourself against sunburn is even more important.
Wearing SPF daily is incredibly important not just to protect your skin from sun damage, but also to help prevent yourself from premature aging, fine lines and wrinkles. Whatever the weather, ensure you apply a cream with SPF to your face to prevent facial sun damage. If you are exposing any other skin, be sure to protect with an all-over SPF product, particularly if you have fair or sensitive skin. Regularly use sun cream, cover up any sensitive areas and limit your exposure time where possible, particularly between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm when the sun is at its strongest.
Freckles (ephilides) are most often seen in fair-skinned individuals, particularly those with red hair. They are a result of melanin (dark skin pigment) build-up within keratinocytes (skin cells). In winter, freckles may fade as the keratinocytes are replaced by new cells. Freckles usually become less noticeable with age. They can indicate that the skin is more susceptible to sun damage. Freckles do not need to be treated.
Actinic keratoses (AK) are areas of sun-damaged skin. They are scaly spots that are mostly found on the parts of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the backs of hands, forearms, face, and ears. They are usually harmless but can be unsightly. There is however a small risk of some AKs turning into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). AK more commonly occurs in individuals that are older and fair-skinned. A tendency to burn rather than tan also predisposes a person to AKs.
AK is usually diagnosed with the appearance of the lesion alone. However, AKs can look like an SCC so there may be some doubt. In this case, a biopsy (sample) or excision can be performed, which allows more exact assessment under a microscope.
AK can be prevented by strict sun protection. Once already present there are some treatment options, some most of which we offer here at DermConsult.
AKs can regress by themselves and are usually not concerning. If they are flat and not causing symptoms then observation by a dermatologist or GP may suffice. Alternatively, creams such as imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil can be effective.
If on the other hand, they are painful, enlarging, thickened or ulcerated then they should be treated. differently. Treatment in this scenario usually involves the removal of the defective skin cells. Options include cryotherapy (freezing the lesion off with liquid nitrogen), photodynamic treatment (shining a red light after applying a cream that allows the skin to absorb it), curettage (scraping with a sharp instrument) and excision.
To book a consultation for sun damage treatment, get in touch today!