Actinic keratosis (AKs) are common skin growths, and treatment for AKs is one of the most frequent reasons that patients seek out dermatologists. They are also known as “solar keratoses” due to being caused by years of sun exposure. AKs are considered precancerous. If left untreated, they may evolve into squamous cell carcinoma.
Similar to skin cancer, AKs are formed when ultraviolet (UV) light damages skin cells. Damaged cells (caused by UV light) can cause the skin to become scaly and rough. If changes continue to take place, AKs can become skin cancer.
What do AKs look like?
Most AKs are dry, scaly and rough in texture, but they all do not appear the same. Some are the same color as the skin and can be easier felt than seen. These particular AKs often feel like sandpaper, can appear in groups and cover larger skin areas. Others show themselves as red bumps, red scaly patches or growths, or crusted growths varying from red to brown to yellowish black. Size can vary from the size of a pinhead to larger than a quarter. Sometimes, they grow rapidly upward and you will see a growth that resembles a horn (known as a cutaneous horn). They often form on men’s ears.
AKs can will often disappear for months and then reappear. This is why treatment is so important; left untreated, damaged cells can continue to multiply and grow, and skin cancer may develop.
AKs tend to appear on skin that is exposed to the most sun, including: face, forehead and scalp (especially a bald scalp), neck and upper chest, back, ears, lower legs (especially in women), arms and hands.
Who gets AKs?
Fair-skinned people have a greater risk of forming AKs. Also, people with one or more of the following traits: blonde/red hair color, blue/green/hazel eyes, skin that freckles or burns when in the sun, or/and 40 years of age or older. People who have been exposed to a lot of sun are at risk for developing AKs prior to age 40. Using a tanning bed or tanning lamp increases the risk of AKs developing.
How do dermatologists treat AKs?
When treating AKs, dermatologists use one or several therapies, which include:
- Photodynamic therapy
- Chemical peeling
- Laser skin resurfacing
- Chemotherapy for the skin
- Immunotherapy for the skin
- NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for the skin
Our certified dermatologists can meet with you to discuss which treatment option is right for you.
Schedule an appointment for your actinic keratoses today
Leaving actinic keratoses undiagnosed and untreated can be dangerous, as actinic keratoses can be a precursor to skin cancer. To meet with a certified dermatologist near you today, call the team at Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, PC.