Precancerous conditions are those that have the potential to develop into cancer. The following are the most common precancerous conditions, or skin lesions in this case, for skin malignancies. A skin lesion is a growth or look that is abnormal in comparison to the surrounding skin. It might be present from birth or acquired over a person's lifetime.
Some of the skin lesions that can lead to skin cancer include:
- Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly spot on the skin that develops as a result of UV radiation damage after extended exposure to sunshine. It's mostly prevalent on sun-exposed parts including your face, lips, ears, hands, forearms, scalp, and neck.
Actinic keratosis can affect anyone, however it is more common in persons over the age of 40 who live in sunny climes. Sunburns that are frequent or severe can suggest that a person is at risk for actinic keratosis. If caught early enough, the problem can be entirely eradicated or eliminated before it progresses to skin cancer.
When it does turn into skin cancer, it usually becomes squamous cell carcinoma, which isn't life threatening in and of itself.
- Actinic cheilitis
Long-term exposure to the sun causes actinic cheilitis, which is an inflammation of the lips. Chapped lips that turn white or scaly are the most common symptoms. It usually begins with dry, cracked lips that progress to red or white areas on the lower lip.
It mainly affects adults over the age of 40, and it affects men more than women. It's also more common among those with lighter skin tones and those who live in hotter regions. People who are prone to skin burns or freckles are more likely to get AC. If left untreated, this condition can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of skin cancer.
- Cutaneous Horns
A cutaneous horn is a form of growth or lesion that has the potential to become cancerous. Keratin, a protein found in the top layer of the skin, is what makes it up. The growth is called a horn because it protrudes from the skin and resembles a cone, a spike, or a horn. They commonly appear on the face, hands, ears, head, chest, and arms, which are exposed to the sun the most.
It is more common in older adults, especially those between the ages of 60 and 70. Skinny horns can affect both men and women, however men are more likely to acquire skin cancer as a result of this disease. People with fair or light skin are more vulnerable. Cutaneous horns are not communicable, however they can be painful and inflamed.
- Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles)
A dysplastic nevus, also known as an atypical mole, is a benign mole with an odd appearance. These can look like melanoma, and the more atypical moles you have, the more likely you are to acquire skin cancer. These can appear anywhere on the body, although they are most common in areas that are exposed to the sun. If left untreated, these can progress to skin malignancies, most commonly melanomas.
Atypical moles are often larger than regular moles, measuring more than 5 mm in diameter and varying in colour from pink to brown. It's normally flat, with a smooth, scaly, or somewhat pebbly appearance with irregular edges that blend in with the skin around it.
When do moles indicate the presence of skin cancer?
Skin cancer can be detected by the appearance of new spots or moles on the skin, as well as changes in existing ones.
The ABCDE rule describes the signs to look for if you have a mole:
- A (Asymmetry): One half of the mole or birthmark is distinct from the other.
- B (Border): The edges of the mole are uneven, ragged, notched, or fuzzy.
- C (Color): The colour of the mole is not consistent throughout.
- D (Dimension): The spot is greater than 6 mm in diameter (though it is possible for it to be smaller too sometimes)
- E (Evolving or Elevating): The mole's size, shape, or colour is changing.