Certain precursor conditions, some of which result from extensive sun damage, are worth noting. They are sometimes associated with the later development of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). They include actinic, or solar, keratosis
Actinic keratoses are rough, scaly, slightly raised growths that ranges in color from brown to red and may be up to one inch in diameter. Be most careful of scaly growths that become thicker, painful or begin to bleed or crust. Actinic keratoses appear most often in older people. Some experts believe that actinic keratosis is the earliest form of SCC.
Actinic cheilitis is a type of actinic keratosis occurring on the lips. It causes them to become dry, cracked, scaly and pale or white. It mainly affects the lower lip, which typically receives more sun exposure than the upper lip.
These white patches or plaques on the tongue or inside of the mouth, arising in the mucous membranes, have the potential to develop into SCC. They are caused by sources of chronic irritation, including smoking or other tobacco use, and rough teeth or rough edges on dentures and fillings. Leukoplakia on the lips are mainly caused by sun damage.
This is generally considered to be a superficial SCC that has not yet spread. It appears as a persistent red–brown, scaly patch which may resemble psoriasis or eczema. If untreated, it may invade deeper structures.
Regardless of appearance, any change in skin growth, or the development of a new growth or open sore that fails to heal should prompt an immediate visit to a physician. If it is a precursor condition, early treatment will prevent it from developing into SCC. Often, all that is needed is a simple surgical procedure or application of a topical chemotherapeutic agent.