Actinic Keratosis

A Common Precancer
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are so common today that treatment for these lesions ranks as one of the most frequent reasons that people consult a dermatologist. Most people simply want the lesion removed for cosmetic reasons and are unaware that they have developed a potentially serious skin condition that can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread.

WHAT DO AK'S LOOK LIKE?

AKs often appear as small dry, scaly or crusty patches of skin. They may be red, light or dark tan, white, pink, flesh-toned or a combination of colors and are sometimes raised. Because of their rough texture, actinic keratoses are often easier to feel than see.

 

WHERE DO THEY APPEAR?

The lesions frequently arise on sun-exposed areas of the face, lips, ears, scalp, shoulders, neck and the back of the hands and forearms. Another form of AK known as actinic cheilitis appears on the lower lip.

 

SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?

Even though just 5-10 percent of AKs turn into skin cancer, the vast majority of squamous cell carcinomas start off as AKs. That’s why it’s best to play it safe and see your dermatologist if you think you may have an AK.

Cited from the Skin Cancer Foundation

TREATMENTS
If detected early, actinic keratoses can be treated before they develop into skin cancer.

See your dermatologist, who can accurately diagnose the lesion and recommend an effective treatment. It’s best to diagnose and treat AKs early, before they become cancerous. This is especially true for AKs that arise on the head or neck, where skin cancers may be more aggressive.

Protect yourself to help prevent further sun damage. Seek shade and protect your skin against UV exposure every day, even when it’s cloudy, using broad-spectrum sunscreen and sun safe clothing, hats and eyewear. Avoid indoor tanning entirely and do not get sunburned.

Your treatment options depend on how many lesions you have, where they are, your age and overall health.
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