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Sun spots - prevention and treatments

Skin Conditions | August 22, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Skin conditions

Sun spots - prevention and treatments

Sun spots are the common name given for ‘Solar keratosis’ also called ‘Actinic keratosis’. They are raised patches of rough, dry, sometimes crusty skin resembling warts, with colours that range from red, to light or dark tan, pink, white or skin toned or in combination. They are often given the name “Keratoses” as there is usually more than one.

Sun spots development is generally slow and their appearance might be “felt” before they are seen. People may notice that they appear to come and go. Occasionally they can become inflamed, irritated and itch, prickle or feel tender and may even bleed.

Who gets Solar Keratosis?As the name suggest, solar keratoses are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation - usually the sun but also from artificial UV light such as tanning machines, and in some instances from extensive exposure to X-rays.

They are considered abnormal cells form lesions in the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin.

Sun spots can appear on any areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun and generally include places like the back of hands, ears, face, neck, chest and back, the fore arms (especially driver’s arms) and bald heads, but even legs and shins.

Who gets Solar Keratosis?

Obviously people who spend a lot of time being exposed to the sun (ultraviolet radiation), but the other people who may be predisposed to sun spots are:

  • People over the age of 40
  • Fair skin more than olive (but olive skin types can still get them)
  • Solarium - ray lamps etc
  • Organ transplant patients (due to immunosuppressing drugs)

Should you be concerned?

Sun spots are not cancerous but they are considered the most common pre-cancerous lesion and have the potential to become malignant and develop into squamous cell carcinomas. Fair skin people who experience extensive sun exposure are at potential risk of developing malignant skin disease and it is suggested that the appearance of solar keratosis might be a possible warning sign to take further precautions and seek regular skin check-ups.

About ultraviolet radiation sun damage

It is possible to get skin cancer from even low dose exposure to the sun. UV radiation damages DNA in the skin cells and causes a suppression of the immune system of the skin.

The ultraviolet radiation is made of UVA and UVB rays both which contribute to skin ageing, sunburn, eye damage and skin cancers.

  • UVA rays enter the skin to its lower layer, the dermis, and causes damage to the cells genetics resulting in wrinkling skin, pigmentation, and immune suppression.
  • UVB affects the outer layer, the epidermis, causing sun burn that can be a risk factor in developing Melanoma or other skin cancers.

It is when the cells are unable to repair damage that tumor growth can begin.


inflammationNumerous studies have implicated the development of tumours to a dysregulation of the inflammatory pathways. Chronic exposure to UV rays producces an oxidative environment, the development of solar keratosis with a connection to skin inflammation and possible the development of cancer. 

Reduce sun exposure to reduce oxidative stress and the inflammatory response of the skin.

Natural treatments

Nicotinamide (Vitamin B3) has the potential to prevent sunlight-induced immune suppression. It does this by supporting cellular energy enabling efficient DNA repair after sun exposure.

The Australian Cancer Council initiated research headed by Professor Diona Damian that concluded by taking a tablet a day or applying a topical lotion of nicotinamide was highly effective in providing immune protection.

Professor Damian and her team won a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council to undertake a landmark skin cancer prevention clinical trial called ONTRAC (“Oral Nicotinamide to Reduce Actinic Cancer”). The results have been internationally recognised and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is best to consult with your Doctor or Dermatologist whether it is useful for you to use Nicotinamide as the dose suggested is considered a high dose treatment. Nicotinamide is suggested over other available B3 forms such as Niacin or Nicotinic acid.


Plants contain compounds with multiple properties which include antioxidant, immune modulation and anti-inflammatory and are believed to possess chemotherapeutic actions against carcinogenesis (the development to cancer). Any part of the whole plants could be used including their roots or rhizomes, flowers, fruit and leaves. Botanical agents may have a preventive role in the development of skin cancers.

Ingenol mebutate is an extract from the Euphorbia peplus (E. peplus) plant that has been identified for its chemotherapeutic potential, and, more recently, approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of actinic keratoses. It is available in Australia on prescription.

Green Tea (Camellia sinesis) contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of all the teas. Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals.

These are compounds that cause damage in the body when they accumulate to a point where the body becomes over-loaded. They have the potential to damage DNA, change cells structure and cause cell death. It is believed they contribute to the aging process, and the development of a number of health problems, such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants, such as polyphenols in green tea, can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

sun spot resveratrolGrapeseed extract (Vitis vinifera) contain compounds called proanthocyanidins which have shown to have protective effects in the development of skin cancers.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in a number of botanicals including grapes, peanuts, fruits, red wine, and mulberries, that has been founds to protect the skin from harmful UV-induced effect. It does this by scavenging free radical, reducing inflammation, and displaying anti- carcinogenic properties.

Curcumin is a spice found in the root of the Curcuma longa plant that has been shown to have an anticarcinogenic effect by preventing inflammation, oxidation and promoting tumor cell death.  Applied topically it has been found to inhibit skin cancer activity in mice however, no reports have been published to assess the use of curcumin in human clinical trials.


Moderate intake of oily fish, approximately once or twice a week was found to decrease the development of Actinic Keratosis, based on animal studies.  It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids protect against inflammation in skin cells and can modulate the immune response after ultraviolet exposure.

Human studies have shown that supplementation with EPA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, supported the integrity of the skin against oxidative damage, redness and inflammation.

A diet low in meat, saturated fats and high in leafy green vegetables is suggested to help prevent the development of any cancers.

Foot note: Prevention is the key. Be sun savvy - reduce your sun exposure, especially in the middle of the day. Wear protective clothing and approved sun glasses.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and strategies

Botanical Agents for the Treatment of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Food intake, dietary patterns, and actinic keratoses of the skin: a longitudinal study,

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