Actinic keratoses (AK) are precancerous skin lesions due to chronic, prolonged sun exposure.

Classically, AKs are considered to be an “egg” (baby) form of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. New research is further demonstrating the importance of properly treating these lesions as a disease state over the body and not just as isolated lesions. When present, patients describe AKs as rough, scaly, sometimes red, flat sand-paper feeling growths. If untreated, these lesions may progress to non-melanoma skin cancer (typically squamous cell carcinoma). Early intervention can halt and help “unwind the hands of time” in the progression of the disease, as well as making the skin appear more healthy and youthful.

While traditionally each individual lesion was treated with liquid nitrogen, the infamous “freezing” or “burning”, newer evidence is guiding modern clinicians to more effective and long lasting therapeutic options.

Photodynamic Therapy (often referred to as “light”, “blue light” or “PDT”), is an office based procedure with long lasting suppression of actinic keratosis lesions. PDT is minimally painful, non-invasive, and requires little effort or discomfort on the part of the patient.

Another very effective therapy is topical medications best described as “skin chemotherapy” using medications such as Zyclara, Efudex, or 5-flourauracil. These medications are applied by the patient 1-2 times per day for four to six weeks. While very effective, many patients using topical agents report significant pain (often times described as 7-9 out of 10 pain), redness, and a negative appearance due to the inflammation of the medication applied area. Use of topical medications for AKs is best performed when patients are educated and followed closely during their therapeutic course.

Take Control of Your Health with an Annual Skin Exam

When it comes to skin cancer, time is of the essence. The sooner potential issues are identified, the higher the likelihood of successful treatment. Yearly skin cancer screenings are the cornerstone of early detection, enabling us to identify any warning signs and act swiftly. Think of your annual skin exam as your proactive step toward a lifetime of skin health.