Solar keratosis and sun damage

WHAT IS SOLAR KERATOSIS? (sometimes known as actinic keratosis or sun damage)

These are pre-cancerous areas of skin which have been damaged through many years of exposure to UV rays form the sun.  Damaged skin cells start to grow and multiply faster than normal. These keratoses are often seen on sun exposed skin such as scalp face and arms. They appear as whitish rough patches or spots, which can be scratched off, but do not heal.  Sometimes they bleed a little.  It is important that these areas are managed carefully to avoid the possibility of them progressing to skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) in the future.


We have several methods of treating sun damage:

5 fluorouracil (trade name Efudix) is a type of chemotherapy applied directly to the skin and kills abnormal cells.  The cream is applied to individual spots for about three weeks, until the skin becomes bright red and inflamed.

Imiquimod (trade name Aldara) and ingenol mebutate (trade name Picato) work in a similar fashion. Less used in the NHS but often better than efudix.

Liquid nitrogen has been used successfully for many years, and kills the cells by freezing. This is cheap and effective but potentially scarring.  Use only on inconspicious areas of body.

Daylight photodynamic therapy is a new and  useful  way of clearing large areas of  damage.  Not often offered on NHS as expensive.


 Which treatment suits you depends on a number of factors, which would be discussed at your consultation