Freckles from old sunburn & skin cancer?
March 18, 2017 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Hi MeFi! Someone I know recently mentioned that they were performing laser removal of some sun damaged skin to "prevent it from becoming cancerous". I didn't know this was even a thing, and as a bit of a hypochondriac it caused me to worry a little. About 15 years ago, I went on a trip to Mexico and got some horrible sunburns on my shoulders, causing them to become very permanently freckled and (I think) making the skin on my back quite a bit more sensitive. I never really worried about it, but my acquaintance's comments made me think that maybe I should examine the area more closely. I know you are not my doctor, but is there anything to worry about if it's been 15 years with no real issues, or is there still an increased risk of skin cancer even all those years later? Also, I've never heard of laser removal for this sort of issue, and I couldn't find much on Google about it. Is this actually a common procedure for sun damaged skin, or is my acquaintance just being overly cautious? Thank you!
posted by archagon to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not all sun damaged skin is pre-cancerous but there are some kinds that are, primarily actinic keratosis. If you check out the website, you will see that they have some distinctive qualities that make them not just another freckle. Both my husband and his mother are prone to these. They have regular visits to the dermatologist who check them out and then uses liquid nitrogen to quickly take care of it.

Since you are worried and since these are on your back, where you can't really see them, it is worth a visit to a dermatologist to get checked out. My sense is that it is not a big deal but why run the risk of it turning into something serious when it is so easy to take care of it.
posted by metahawk at 4:18 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

This is exactly what dermatologists are for. Go in, show them what you're worried about, and listen to their expert opinion. In my experience derms are very, very thorough if there's the potential for skin cancer.
posted by lydhre at 4:29 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]

Having fair skin, a history of bad sunburns, and freckles mean that you are at risk for skin cancer, yes, but the way to deal with it is to see a dermatologist and have a skin check. They only remove freckles that have concerning features (see "the ABCDEs of melanoma" for info) to evaluate for developing cancer. Otherwise, yes, what metahawk said.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:13 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

Your friend might be getting IPL. It isn't a removal per se - just a treatment.

If it will put your mind at ease, go to a dermatologist! I am very fair, and even though I have never gone out in the sun much, I am now noticing a lot of freckling on my face and shoulders.
posted by 41swans at 7:09 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

I'm one of those fair skinned people who go for annual mole/skin checks with my dermatologist. I would definitely go and get checked out if I were you, just for the peace of mind...
posted by bquarters at 9:01 PM on March 18

My annual dermatologist visit is some of the best money I spend a year. The peace of mind that THIS mole is nothing but THAT mole needs a check..and 1 week later finding out its fine, too? So worth it.
posted by gatorae at 9:52 PM on March 19

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