It’s more common than you think! Actinic Keratoses (AKs) or Solar Keratoses, are a common skin lesion that we see in our dermatology practice every day.
These rough and scaly growths are considered pre-cancerous changes of the skin and may be pink, red, brown and sometimes flesh colored. At times they are easier to feel than to see and some describe a “sandpaper” texture to the spot on your skin. AKs can be sensitive to the touch and many describe a itching and burning sensation at the direct site.
Like skin cancers, AKs develop on skin that receives the most sun (face, chest, ears, scalp, lips, hands, and arms). If left untreated, some AKs will develop into a squamous cell carcinoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.
Treatment for AKs can be a single treatment or a combination of therapies. Some common treatments for AK’s include:
1. Cryosurgery: An in-office treatment, which involves the use of a very cold substance, usually liquid nitrogen, to “freeze” the abnormal tissue.
2. Topical chemotherapy with a cancer fighting cream, such as 5-fluoruracil. These medications are applied by the patient at home for a designated amount of time.
3. Topical Immunotherapy (i.e. imiquimod) is an at home therapy which stimulates the patient’s own immune system to fight of the damaged skin cells.
4. Topical NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as sodium diclofenac, as a home therapy.
5. PDT or Photodynamic Therapy is an in-office procedure that uses a combination of a topical solution, which sensitizes the skin to light, and then the skin is exposed to a “blue” or “red” light. The light then activates the solution to destroy the actinic lesions.
6. TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) peels can be used in the office to remove the outer layers of the skin to “peel” away damaged skin, leaving healthy new skin to replace it.
7. Laser resurfacing can be used to remove the outer layers of unhealthy and damaged skin.
*PREVENTION* Sun damage starts when we are children, but if you have already experienced AKs or even skin cancers, it is NEVER too late to start a healthy skin care regimen. Avoid the sun during peak hours (10am-4pm), wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts & wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, and wear a mineral-based broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY! Remember if you’re spending time outside, reapply every 80 minutes!
Have any other questions for us about AKs? Ask away! We will be happy to help you.