Treatments for pre-cancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratoses, include surgery, freezing, curettage and cryotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation, photodynamic therapy, and biological therapy, explains Mayo Clinic. Treatment for both skin cancer and pre-cancerous skin conditions depends upon the type and size of the lesion, its depth and its location. Very small lesions on the skin sometimes require only a biopsy to remove them.
Doctors may freeze lesions by applying liquid nitrogen. The diseased tissue falls off as the lesion thaws, reports Mayo Clinic. Other ways of treating lesions are excisional surgery and Mohs surgery. In excisional surgery, the doctor removes the entire lesion along with some healthy tissue around it, clearing the area of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Mohs surgery involves excising the lesion layer by layer until no more diseased cells remain. The curettage and cryotherapy method combines removal and freezing of the lesion.
When doctors cannot remove the cells completely, they may use chemotherapy or radiation to destroy the remaining abnormal cells, notes Mayo Clinic. In chemotherapy, doctors try to remove diseased tissue by using drugs, either applied directly to the lesions or given orally. Radiation therapy requires high dosages of energy beams, such as x-rays, to kill the diseased cells. Photodynamic therapy uses laser light and medications to eliminate cancers that may be sensitive to light, and biological therapy enlists the body's immune system to fight the disease.