Actinic Keratosis (AK)
Actinic keratosis are precancerous lesions that occur most commonly on the head, scalp and arms. Early actinic keratosis are often be felt before they are seen. Patients will note a gritty or sandpaper-like texture. A typical actinic keratosis usually appears as a spot that is red/flesh colored, scaly, and rough. Actinic keratosis can have symptoms of tenderness, itching or burning sensation. If these lesions are not treated they can become cancerous lesions, called squamous cell carcinoma. If you have any new growths on you skin, changing spots, or areas that cause you discomfort, give us a call. Our staff will do a thorough skin screening and diagnosis any lesions of concern. Early detection and treatment of actinic keratosis can prevent cancers that require invasive procedures to have removed.
What Causes Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratoses are triggered by damage done to the skin cells by ultraviolet (UV) radiation either from the sun or tanning beds.
Who Is at Risk for Getting Actinic Keratosis?
These factor’s increase your risk of getting an AK:
- History of previous actinic keratosis.
- If you are over the age of 40.
- Chronic sun exposure/sunburns – this includes recreational exposure (hiking, golf, swimming), use of tanning beds and exposure in occupations that are outside (lifeguards, farmers, ranchers, oil riggers).
- Fair skin, freckles or the inability to “tan”.
- Light-colored eyes (Blue, green or grey eyes).
- Blond or red hair.
- Immunosuppression- HIV patients, organ transplant patients or patients on medications that suppress their immune system.
- Tobacco users.
Exposure to cancer- causing chemicals such as insecticides, fuels, tar, and arsenic
How Is It Treated?
The good news is actinic keratoses can be effectively treated with one of the following treatments.
- Cryosurgery – some refer to this treatment option as “freezing off lesions”.
- Photodynamic therapy.
- Topical medications such as 5-Fluorouracil(Efudex, Carac, Fluoroplex),Imiquimod (Zyclara,Aldara), Ingenol mebutate (Picato).
How Do I Prevent Getting a Skin Cancer?
- Get an annual skin exam from a dermatologist.
- Do self-exams noting if any new or changing spots have formed monthly.
- Protect your skin from UV rays with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and sun protective clothing.
- Never use tanning beds.
- If possible, plan outdoor activities outside the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM when UV radiation is at the lowest.
When to See a Doctor
- You have detected a new growth on your skin.
- You have a changing lesion.
- You have a lesion that is red, rough or scaly.
- You have a non-healing lesion or spot.
- You have a spot or lesion that is painful or itchy.