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Skin Cancer

Solar radiation is a major cause of skin cancer. Cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation received from the sun when working outdoors, during recreation, or in tanning salons cause damage to the superficial layers of the skin.

Solar keratoses/actinic keratoses are very common presentations of sun damage. They are often present as thick and scaly growths, red-brown macules, papules or plaques with dry scales.

Some solar keratoses are more easily detected by palpation than visual inspection. They are generally non-tender, although some may present prickling, burning or stinging after sun exposure or perspiration.

Solar keratosis is most common on areas that are frequently exposed to sun, such as the upper limbs, face, forehead, scalp, ears, and neck.

A small percentage of solar keratoses can evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma. Thickening and tenderness on palpation are signs that a solar keratosis may have developed into invasive squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Avoid excessive exposure to direct sun, particularly between 10am and 2pm.
  • When outdoors, and where possible, use sun-protective clothing and in recreational or occupational activities use sun-protective structures, such as shade cloths, tents etc.
  • Use broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF 50+ as an adjunct to sun avoidance and other sun protective measures. Reapply every two to three hours as required.
  • People with a fair complexion should be especially careful.
  • Provide children with appropriate sun protection for outdoor activities, and educate them in the need for, and use of, these.
  • Avoid the use of sunbeds, tanning booths, tanning lamps.

Treatment options include:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Curettage and diathermy (hot needle burning)
  • Topical cream treatment
  • Photo Dynamic Therapy

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