I am 37, Caucasian and have developed multiple red scaly patches on sun exposed areas of my skin. My GP suggests it could be signs of skin cancer. Please advise.

The red scaly patches on the sun exposed areas of your skin are most likely suggesting a diagnosis of actinic keratosis (AK) also known solar keratosis, so I would be equally sharing the concerns of your GP. These patches clinically represent signs of excessive sun damage to the affected areas of the skin. Sun damage to the skin can be of an acute nature usually seen as a sunburn reaction mainly caused by UVB radiation. Chronic sun damage can occur due to repeated excessive sun exposure over the years and can result in causing multiple skin changes including appearance of multiple lesions. AK lesions are mainly caused due to sun damage by UVB radiations. The second most common skin side effect of chronic sun damage is premature aging of the skin.

Most of the AK lesions are benign in nature and can easily be treated. A certain percentage of persistent lesions of AK however need to be treated with care and a skin biopsy may need to be performed to rule out cancers. About 4-5 per cent of certain histopathologically diagnosed AK lesions have a potential risk of turning into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin. In early stages, SCC is completely curable through simple surgical excisions. However if ignored or misdiagnosed it can turn into metastatic cancer and can become fatal. As such you must see an experienced dermatologist who can thoroughly examine your skin lesions and design an effective plan of treatment.

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir is a Dubai-based dermatologist. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.