Pre-Cancerous Lesions

Have you been diagnosed with a pre-cancerous skin lesion? Skin cancer can start as a change to your skin, such as a spot on your arm, hand, face or leg.

Pre-cancerous skin lesions are changes to the skin that can turn into cancer over time.

What are pre-cancerous lesions?

Pre-cancerous lesions are skin changes that have the risk of becoming cancer over time. But not all pre-cancerous skin lesions become skin cancer. Your dermatologist or primary care provider may choose to treat a pre-cancerous skin lesion, so it will not have the chance to turn into cancer.

Pre-cancerous lesions often occur in areas highly exposed to the UV rays of the sun:

  • Face (including nose and lips)

  • Scalp

  • Chest

  • Back of hands

  • Legs

  • Forearms

Pre-cancerous skin lesion types

Changes to the skin need to be checked by your primary care provider or dermatologist. There are several different types of pre-cancerous skin lesions:

  • Actinic keratosis: Wart-like growths that may be red or the color of your skin.

  • Moles: New moles or changes to moles (color, size, shape) need to be checked out by your provider.

  • Actinic Cheilitis: Scaly patch that appears on the lips.

  • Cutaneous Horns: Elderly people and people with fair skin may be at risk of these small growths that resemble horns.

Pre-cancerous lesion risks

Anyone can get pre-cancerous skin lesions. But some people are at higher risk. The following are risk factors for pre-cancerous skin lesions:

  • Fair skin, light eyes, or light hair

  • High sun exposure

  • Severe childhood sunburns

  • Older people

  • Men

  • People living closer to the equator

  • People who work outside

  • People who’ve had organ transplants

  • People taking immunosuppressants

Pre-cancerous lesion prevention

There are many things someone can do to prevent getting precancerous skin lesions:

  • Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs.

  • Wear a hat.

  • Limit sun time.

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that protects from both UVA and UVB light.

  • Apply sunscreen before exposure and reapply frequently.

  • Avoid sun in the middle of the day.