• Suspicious Areas on the Skin

Suspicious Areas on the Skin

Peter VelthuisSkin cancer is becoming increasingly common. It is the fastest growing cancer and each year there are tens of thousands of new cases. Sunlight is the biggest factor. I will explain below how a failure in cell growth can initiate early skin cancer: suspicious areas on the skin.

The stratum corneum

The stratum corneum is the outermost covering of our skin. This layer is a barrier which keeps out damaging chemicals, bacteria etc. and in doing so protects our body. The epidermal cells grow from the deeper layers and move up. They die on their way to the surface, losing their fluid and end up as flat parcels of waterproof fatty material: keratin. Cornification is the last phase in the process of cell growth in the epidermis.

Suspicious areas on the skin (actinic keratosis)

A disruption in this cornification process is a first visible sign of deterioration of the skin by sun damage. Normally the stratum corneum has a smooth surface, but after too much sun there is degeneration of the epidermis. The cornification process is then disrupted and the skin surface feels rough, sometimes there is redness around it, sometimes with a crust. These areas are known as actinic keratosis (AK’s). They are mainly isolated areas measuring a few millimeters in diameter, but may affect large areas of skin. This is in particular the forehead and the bridge of the nose or the bald head in men. A very large area is no longer normal in structure, with hard scabs, flaking, redness, small lesions.

Precursor for skin cancer

Actinic keratosis is seen as the precursor for skin cancer. However, experience shows that the probability that an isolated actinic keratosis becomes cancerous is very low(<1%). But AK’s are signs of too much sun damage and therefore suspicious areas on the skin with AK’s have a higher chance of developing into skin cancer, such as basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer.

Regards Peter.

Peter Velthuis is the Medical Director and Dermatologist at the Velthuis Clinic. He is writing as my guest blogger.

Read more about Moles,
Checking Your Skin,
A Good Sun Cream,
Radiation from a Tanning Bed.

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