Sun Damage is a spectrum of clinical and skin cell damage from freckles to skin cancer.
Doing outdoor activities is one of the great things about living in Australia and exposure to sunlight has a benefits such as vitamin D production and improvement of mood.
However, while it may feel good to relax in the sun, there is a trade-off. Ultraviolet light from the sun is emitted in the form of UVA and UVB, this electromagnetic radiation damages our skin at the cellular level. This occurs from a young age even without experiencing sunburn.
At UV Skin Cancer Clinic we can provide referrals to our partner clinic Southern Cosmetics for the following:
The Cosmetic Effects of Sun Damage
Freckles and age spots are the body’s attempt to protect itself from UV damage. This process starts in childhood.
Redness and blood vessels or broken capillaries
With time, sun exposure can lead to background redness, “ruddy cheeks” and visible vessels on the cheeks on noses and even the sides of the neck. ruddy Cheeks can appear as pink bumps on faces or even just background redness.
Wrinkles and changes in skin texture
80% of the changes in skin texture we see over time are from UV sun damage.
Before we get cancers we tend to get pre-cancers or as we call them – Actinic Keratoses (AK). They are pale or pink scaly patches of skin which can sometimes be raised which causes us alarm. These are lesions (spots) that have atypical cells but comprise only a fraction of the outermost layer of the skin – the epidermis. The epidermis is usually only 1/10th of a mm (0.1mm) so if the AKs are flat they are very thin. Sometimes they can be raised which makes them look like they may be a cancer.
These AKs can be treated by a number of methods
Cryotherapy (freezing) with liquid nitrogen usually comprises of a very short burst of liquid nitrogen from a cryotherapy canister that causes a little bit of damage to the AK which then stimulates our own body’s immune response to remove the pre-cancer.
At UV Skin Cancer Clinic we have treated over 1000 patients since 2006 with this cream with outstanding results and no long-term adverse effects. Short term one gets very red!
” Statistically we estimate that 50% of Australian 40-year-olds and 80% of Australian 60-year-olds have at least one pre-cancer. So that is most of us over 40! “
Often we find superficial cancers. These are lesions that are between a pre-cancer and a deeper cancer. They can be described as atypical cells that occupy the full thickness of the epidermis. So they are still very thin and effectively treated if addressed early.
The 2 types of superficial cancer are
Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma (sBCC)
The sBCC (more commonly known as BCC) is our least aggressive skin cancer that never spreads and does not even need to be cut out. They have various appearances from a bump with blood vessels to a brown patch or scar.
So why even treat it? It’s a question we get asked often. If left untreated, it will likely get bigger (and uglier) or may progress to a deeper BCC that will then need excision. Often we need a biopsy to determine the diagnosis: the type of skin cancer and depth.
Treatment that usually follows is:
- PDT Similar to pre-cancer treatment
Superficial Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Which is usually called Squamous Cell Carcinoma in situ (SCCis) , Intraepidermal Carcinoma (IEC) or Bowens disease. They may appear as a red bump or growth/sore that doesn’t heal. The SCCis is not an aggressive form of skin cancer but may progress to a deeper SCC which unfortunately does have the capacity for spread or metastasis. Treatment options usually are:
- PDT Similar to pre-cancer treatment
It is important to emphasise that getting a skin check is not just a mole check by photos or even a doctor. Melanomas comprise only 2% of all skin cancers. It requires close examination by an experienced doctor which means looking closely, sometimes with magnification, including Dermoscopy, and usually by palpating (touching) the skin to feel for roughness and ascertain tenderness. All key clues to diagnosis.
Just as all these conditions fall somewhere along the clinical spectrum of Sun Damage so does the treatment of all these conditions. Diagnosing early means treating at an earlier stage which means less intrusive or invasive treatment modalities. Also, within your consultation, professional advice is given for protecting your skin and improving the quality of its appearance.
An annual skin check is your best strategy for diagnosing and treating sun damage earlier rather than later. Also, you don’t need to wait for summer to do a skin check – they can be done all year round – even in winter!