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FAQs

What is sun induced skin damage?
Who is at the greatest risk of sun induced skin damage?
How can I reduce my risk of developing sun damaged skin?
What is skin cancer?
What does skin cancer look like?
What treatments are available for skin cancer?
What is actinic keratosis?
Is actinic keratosis the same as cancer?
What do actinic keratoses look like?
Are actinic keratoses dangerous?
How are actinic keratoses diagnosed?
What is the treatment for actinic keratoses?
After treatment will my actinic keratoses come back?
Am I more likely to develop skin cancer if I have been diagnosed with actinic keratosis?
How important is it to check your skin regularly?

What is sun induced skin damage?

Spending too much time in the sun exposes the skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can permanently damage your skin cells. Premature ageing can be a sign of long-term skin damage from sun exposure but more serious conditions include actinic keratosis and skin cancer.

 
Who is at the greatest risk of sun induced skin damage?

Anyone can have sun damaged skin but as it is the result of long-term sun exposure it is more likely to affect people as they get older. If you have fair skin, burn easily in the sun, use sunbeds or have spent a lot of time outdoors you are particularly at risk.

Mild sunburn usually lasts 4-7 days, but if you have a history of sunburn, especially during childhood, you are at higher risk of skin damage, actinic keratosis and skin cancer in later life. In addition, sunburn at any stage in life increases your risk of melanoma, the most serious form of cancer.
 

 
How can I reduce my risk of developing sun damaged skin?

One of the best ways to protect your skin is to limit your exposure to harmful UV radiation. Stay out of the sun especially in the middle of the day, wear protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts and long skirts or trousers, and apply a high factor sunscreen (factor 15 or higher) BEFORE going out in the sun. Make sure you use plenty of sunscreen and reapply regularly.

 
What is skin cancer?

Some people like having a tan but to keep your skin healthy you should avoid sun bathing, particularly in the middle of the day and using sunbeds.
Find out more from the Irish Cancer Society about the risk of sunbeds
 

 
What does skin cancer look like?

There are many different types of skin cancer. Have a look at the sun damage gallery for some examples. Sun damage is not always easy to see so remember to Check Your Skin by both LOOKING and FEELING for any unusual changes and speak to your GP if you have any concerns.
 

 
What treatments are available for skin cancer?

There are many different types of skin cancer. The type of treatment your doctor suggests will depend on lots of things including your age, the type and size of the cancer, and where it is on your body. The five main types of treatment are surgery, radiotherapy, cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy and a variety of creams and gels. Your doctor will be able to discuss these with you in more detail.

 
What is actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that is caused by sunlight and may be a precursor to skin cancer . Actinic keratosis is often a red, scaly lesion that is not always easy to see. It can vary greatly in size, shape and colour, but is usually less than 1cm across with a scaly white surface. However, it can be red, pink, pale, skin coloured, or a combination of these. It often presents as a rough, sandpapery lesions on areas of skin that are regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp and ears.
 

 
Is actinic keratosis the same as cancer?

Actinic keratosis and skin cancer are not the same, actinic keratosis has the potential to develop into skin cancer. Over a 10 year period around 10% of people with multiple actinic keratoses may go on to develop skin cancer.  A study conducted in USA show that approximately 65% percent of the skin cancer type called squamous cell carcinoma cases begin as actinic keratoses, and patients with the condition are almost seven times more likely to develop any type of skin cancer than people without it. As it is impossible to tell which  actinic keratoses have the potential to develop into skin cancer treatment is recommended.
Check Your Skin every month for any potential problems as finding and treating early will reduce the risk of a more serious conditions developing.

 
What do actinic keratoses look like?

Actinic keratoses  often appear as red, scaly lesions that are not always easy to see. They can vary greatly in size, shape and colour, but are usually less than 1cm across with a scaly white surface. However, they can be red, pink, pale, skin coloured, or a combination of these. Although actinic keratoses are not always easy to see, they often present as a rough, sandpapery area so it is important to both LOOK and FEEL for skin changes.
 

 
Are actinic keratoses dangerous?

Actinic keratosis is the most common pre-cursor to skin cancer in humans. It may get better on its own but as it is impossible to tell which lesions have the potential to develop into skin cancer, treatment is recommended.
 

 
How are actinic keratoses diagnosed?

It is most likely that your doctor will diagnose actinic keratoses by looking, checking and feeling any skin lesions. If a lesion is large and growing rapidly, red or bleeding your Doctor might recommend further investigations or treatment.
 

 
What is the treatment for actinic keratoses?

You should discuss with your doctor whether treatment for actinic keratosis is right for you, as there are several factors to take into account. There are a number of treatments for actinic keratosis including topical treatments such as creams, gels and liquids, as well as procedures that either burn, freeze or surgically remove the lesions. Your doctor will be able to discuss the different treatment options with you.
 

 
After treatment will my actinic keratoses come back?

Actinic keratoses are caused by sun exposure throughout your life so there is a high chance that further lesions will develop.
 

 
Am I more likely to develop skin cancer if I have been diagnosed with actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis may get better on its own but, as it is impossible to tell which lesions have the potential to become cancerous, it is important to be aware of any skin changes so potential problems can be identified and, if needed, treated early. Actinic keratosis is a marker for sun damage and all of its associated problems. The most serious risk is skin cancer, so being aware of any changes in your skin is extremely important.
 

 
How important is it to check your skin regularly?

Checking your skin every month means that any potential problems are more likely to be found and treated at an early stage, reducing the risk of a more serious conditions developing.
 

 

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