These skin problems are not cancer, but they do have a strong tendency to become cancerous if they are ignored and not diagnosed or treated. Although relatively common in the UK, few people are really aware of them.

Actinic keratosis

Not many people have heard of a condition called actinic keratosis, but it affects about one in five fair skinned people over 60. It develops due to exposure to UV light and causes thickened patches of skin, which can turn cancerous over time.

It is important to get an accurate diagnosis and your GP will refer you to a specialist who can examine your skin and differentiate actinic keratosis from other skin conditions.

A range of treatments is available to prevent the skin becoming cancerous in the future. Mr Hodges can advise what is best in your case but therapy can involve creams and gels that you apply yourself, through photodynamic therapy, laser treatments and chemical peels, to surgery.

Bowen’s disease

This is another pre-cancerous skin condition that tends to affect older people but that is rarely talked about. It iss most common in women over 70 and it causes red, sometimes itchy patches, often on the legs, arms, abdomen or back. Left untreated it can develop into a form of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is important, as the symptoms of Bowen’s disease are very similar to other common skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

Once a diagnosis has been made treatment involves a range of possible therapies to prevent the transition into cancer.