Actinic keratoses (AKs) are the early stages of skin cancer, commonly referred to as precancers. Also known as solar keratosis, it enlarges slowly on the skin usually as a rough dry or scaly patch of skin, slightly raised patch or bump, or even a hard wart-like bump. In some case you may feel an itch or burn in the affected area.
What Causes Actinic Keratoses?
This red/brown scaly spot on the skin is caused by long-term exposure to sunlight, specifically to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. For this reason, AKs are most common on the face, ears, lips, hands, and arms as these areas typically receive a lot of UV light.
Actinic keratoses takes years to develop, usually only appearing on people over the age of 40. A small number of actinic keratosis lesions end up developing into skin cancer but it can be a warning sign that cancer may develop. We recommend that you have our Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Mary Noël George exam any spots that have the associated symptoms of actinic keratoses.
The treatment of actinic keratoses is normally accomplished by cryotherapy (or “freezing”), and the application of creams. If treatment actions are taken early enough, actinic keratosis can be cleared up or removed before any complications or the development of skin cancer. If left untreated, AKs may develop into squamous cell carcinomas, the second most common form of skin cancer.
The prevention of actinic keratoses is crucial because it is an early form skin cancer. Sun safety is necessary in preventing the development and reoccurrence of actinic keratosis patches. Use these guidelines to protect your skin:
- Limit Time in the Sun especially during the hours of 10am – 4pm. The UV Index can be helpful in identifying the most dangerous times of being in the sun.
- Wear Sun Protection with a minimum SPF of 30.
- Cover Up with wide brimmed hats, tightly woven clothes, and long-sleeves/pants.
- Seek the Shade during times with a high UV Index.
- Avoid Tanning Beds because the photoaging process is accelerated due to the radiation all being absorbed in a short time period.
- Get Checked Regularly, see Dr. George for routine examinations.
Don’t Let Your Actinic Keratoses Develop Any Further!
Contact Dr. George to set up an appointment and she will assist you with treatment and prevention of further lesions. Get started with your evaluation and management today!