What are Sunspots on the skin?
Solar Keratosis, otherwise called sunspots, are areas of sun damaged skin. Sunspots generally appear as a red, flat scaly area on sun exposed skin, typically the backs of hands, forearms and the face and scalp (in men with hair loss). They can also appear on the lip and the condition is then call actinic cheilitis. They are the results of chronic sun damage and effect around 80% of Australians by the age of 60. We check and treat sunspots regularly at Brisbane City Skin Clinic.
Sunspots (solar keratosis) are important for two reasons.
1. Their presence indicates that the skin has been damaged by UV radiation from the sun and that the risk of getting skin cancers is higher. When solar keratoses are noted on skin examination your doctor may recommend more frequent skin checks.
2. Solar keratoses can sometimes develop into one of the important types of skin cancer, Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Click here to read more about Squamous Cell Carcinoma. It is not known the exact risk of a single solar keratosis transforming into an SCC. However, one study suggested that a person with 7-8 solar keratosis has a 10% chance of developing an Squamous Cell Carcinoma within 10 years.
Treatment for Sunspots
Treatments can be targeted to individual spots or the whole “field”, such as the whole face, both hands, hands and forearms etc.
One common way to treat individual spots is by freezing them with cryotherapy. This is a simple and quick way to treat individual spots during a consultation, however it is mildly painful, it can leave behind lighter coloured skin and it doesn’t treat the surrounding skin that has had the same amount of sun exposure.
There are several creams that your doctor may prescribe you to treat either individual spots or a “field”. These creams typically cause a skin “reaction” while you use them. This reaction is generally very red, scaly and can be quite itchy and uncomfortable. These include:
– Efudix (5-Fluorouracil): a cream applied to the skin for 3-4 weeks. Causes the skin to go red and sore. Is very effective at treating sun spots.
– Aldara (Imiquimod): similar to Efudix.
– Solaraze Gel (Diclofenac Del): causes much less skin reaction than Efudix and Aldara but needs to be used for much longer i.e. 2-3 months, and is less effective.
– Picato Gel: generally only used for 2-3 days. It has an intense reaction and is more expensive and less effective than Efudix and Aldara.