Malignant Photo Damage

Joseph F. Coffey, BSc, MD, Currently PGY4 Dermatology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
Gordon E. Searles, OD, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Assistant Clinical Professor; Program Director, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

Accumulation of sun exposure is an important factor resulting in aging of the skin and development of cutaneous malignancy. Unfortunately, most people think of suntanning as a healthy, natural process, and damaging effects of the sun are not experienced until 15-20 years after the initial damage has been done. By the time we see patients in our clinic, the majority of our older clientele has extensive, irreversible photo damage and precursors of skin cancer. It is difficult to treat many of these patients as multiple lesions are frequently present, and patients are sometimes unwilling to initiate sun-protective measures, are not ideal surgical candidates, and may not comply with treatments suggested by the dermatologist due to financial burden. We emphasize the critical role of sun exposure as a cause of skin aging, benign stigmata of aging, and development of skin cancers. Treatment options including topical therapies, oral medications, surgery, and new-age technologies are discussed.
Key words: photo-aging, therapy, skin cancer, dermatoheliosis, melanoma.