I have a family history of skin cancer and get myself screened often. How effective is a chemical peel in removing pre-cancerous cells from one’s skin?
There are several types of skin cancer. The three most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Fair skin type, skin that burns easily from sun exposure, family history and cumulative sun exposure over time are risk factors that can make people prone to skin cancers.
A precancerous lesion, by definition doesn’t extend deep into the skin past the most superficial layer of the skin, the epidermis. Actinic keratosis, solar keratosis or senile keratosis are rough, scaly lesions that have the potential to become skin cancers. They are often found in of the face, neck, chest, arms and legs, basically any area with significant sun exposure. If left untreated, actinic keratosis can potentially develop in to squamous cell carcinomas, a skin cancer.
Early superficial precancerous lesions such as these can be treated with a chemical peel that removes the top layer of skin with the effected area. Chemical peels can vary in depth depending on the solution used. To treat precancerous lesions, a medium to deep chemical peel is required to remove the effected skin. Chemical peels aren’t recommended to treat lesions that are already skin cancers. Most often, excision is usually necessary for proper treatment of skin cancers.
Furthermore, lesions that are related to melanoma such as a dysplastic nevus, or lentigo maligna should not be treated with a chemical peel and usually require more aggressive treatment such as a wide excision to minimize the risk of progression to cancer. Before treating any suspicious lesion with a chemical peel, it is important that your skin is evaluated by a qualified dermatologist, facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon.
-Dr. Jessica Kulak