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Sun Damaged Skin Can Lead To Variety of Skin Cancers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sun and Skin Care

Patchy dry scales on the skin caused by the sun may lead to a variety of skin cancer according to a new study. Skin lesions that occur from sun exposure, known as actinic keratosis typically turn into squamous cell carcinoma. New research shows that pink lesions on the skin - actinic keratosis - from sun damage can come and go, eventually causing types of skin cancers previously unknown.

Researchers from Brown University, the Veterans Administration Medical Centers in Providence and Oklahoma City have uncovered some interesting findings when they studied 169 patients from the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City considered high risk for skin cancer, and among a group of 1,131 patients who took part in a chemotherapy prevention program. Most had sun damaged skin, evidenced by actinic keratosis lesions, primarily on the ear and face. The patients were followed for six years, and found to develop two types of skin cancer – squamous cell that is highly treatable, and basal cell skin cancer.

Two-thirds of the patients with actinic keratosis from sun-damaged skin developed squamous cell skin cancer. Basal cell cancer of the skin, the most common form of skin cancer in the US, developed in one-third of the patients with actinic keratosis.

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The scientists found out that lesions from sun-damaged skin can disappear and return, making the study challenging. Until now, researchers had not connected actinic keratosis from sun damage to basal cell skin cancer.

The news that skin damage from the sun causes more harm than shown by previous studies comes just in time for summer. The study highlights the need for protection from the sun to prevent skin cancers.

The researchers are planning more studies to see if treatment of actinic keratosis - patches of sun-damaged skin- can prevent different types of skin cancer. The findings that sun damaged skin can lead to basal cell carcinoma was previously unknown.