Actinic keratosis or keratoses (plural) are scaly spots found on sun-exposed skin and are considered pre-cancerous. They are frequently seen on the forehead, temples, cheeks, ears, and the back of the hands. The surface of these lesions are frequently rough and common symptoms are occasional pain and burning.
Did you know…
that some percentage of actinic keratoses will progress into skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma)? Therefore, treatment is indicated. Although actinic keratosese usually affect patients in their 50’s and 60’s, they can also occur in younger patients who have had chronic sun exposure.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are actinic keratoses diagnosed?
Actinic keratoses are diagnosed clinically by a dermatologist. Occasionally a skin biopsy is necessary to differentiate between an actinic keratosis and a squamous cell carcinoma.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment for actinic keratoses requires removal of the abnormal cells usually by destructive methods. Cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen, shave removal, curettage (scraping with a sharp spoon-like tool), and electrodesiccation (burning) are all possible treatment options depending on the size, thickness, and location of the lesion. Multiple lesions covering a large area are usually treated with field therapy by a topical cream or photodynamic therapy (PDT).
What can I expect during and after treatment?
The most common treatment is cryotherapy. The nitrogen is applied to the skin for a few seconds which results in slight discomfort. The treated area will likely blister after a few hours. No special attention is required, but if needed, a bandage can be applied. Once a scab forms, petroleum jelly can be applied to the area until the area heals which usually takes about 10 to 15 days.