Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer skin growth. Also known as solar keratosis, actinic keratosis affects more than 10 million Americans. These precancerous growths on the skin result from overexposure to the sun over a long period of time. While not cancerous on its own, this skin condition is known to develop into malignant cells, typically squamous cell carcinoma, which is a type of skin cancer. This makes actinic keratosis treatment essential. Over time, these benign lesions can become cancerous, even deadly, without proper medical intervention.
Actinic keratosis is more common among fair-skinned people and those who have had years of exposure to ultraviolet light, typically through outdoor or tanning bed exposure.
Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis symptoms present as rough, dry lesions or patches that appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, back of hands, arms, scalp or shoulders. The lesions may be red, pink, gray or skin colored. Lesions often begin as flat, scaly areas and develop into a rough-textured surface. Sometimes it is easier to feel a growth than it is to see it. This is important to keep in mind as you perform self-skin checks.
Actinic Keratosis Treatment Options
The best forms of actinic keratosis treatment include some type of removal. To treat actinic keratosis, you will need to schedule a skin check, wherein the doctor will perform a physical examination and potential biopsy. Once the lesion has been biopsied, your dermatologist will opt for one of the following treatments to remove the growth.
- Cryosurgery, which freezes off the growth using liquid nitrogen. This is also a popular treatment for some superficial forms of cancer.
- Surgical removal in which the doctor scrapes off the lesion and electrocautery stops the bleeding.
- Chemical peels,which cause the top layer of skin to peel off.
- Photodynamic therapy in which a dye is applied that sensitizes the skin to light and the area is then exposed to light via a laser or other light source.
- Topical Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs(NSAIDS) that cause a slow inflammation and peeling. This is often used in more superficial cases.
- Topical Chemotherapeutic agents(5 Fluorouracil, Aldara) are used rarely for actinic keratosis, but this may be the treatment your doctor recommends.
Actinic keratosis treatments are often non-invasive and not painful. Recovery time will vary by treatment, but most patients are able to return to everyday activities immediately following a procedure. These treatments generally take just minutes to complete.
When to See a Doctor for Actinic Keratosis
If you suspect you have actinic keratosis, schedule a skin cancer screening at our Mt. Vernon office. This is the best way to figure out exactly what the lesions are. Once the doctor identifies the growths as benign but precancerous, they will recommend an actinic keratosis treatment option. Remember that only a doctor can identify and treat this type of lesion, so it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.
Skin cancer is always a scary possibility, but with regular skin checks, you and your doctor can catch precancerous growths before they become malignant. If you’re interested in pursuing an actinic keratosis treatment, contact us to schedule your appointment today.