What are Actinic Keratoses?
Actinic keratoses are common skin growths which appear in areas of chronic exposure to sun or indoor tanning beds. They are considered premalignant and if left untreated could eventually turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Typically an actinic keratosis feels dry, scaly, or rough, like sandpaper. They can be flesh-colored, pink, red or brown. Occasionally they can become very thick and raised. They are most common in individuals with fair skin and light colored hair and eyes who have had damage from chronic ultraviolet exposure.
How are Actinic Keratoses treated?
Dermatologists treat actinic keratoses in different ways depending on the number of lesions, the location, and the age of the patient. Treatment options include:
• Cryosurgery, in which superficial skin layers are frozen with liquid nitrogen
• Chemotherapy cream, in which the patient is instructed in the application of a topical medication which destroys premalignant cells
• Immunotherapy cream, in which the patient is instructed in the application of a topical medication which recruits the body’s immune system to destroy premalignant cells
• BLU-U therapy, an in-office procedure, in which a topical photosensitizing agent is applied to the skin followed by a special light treatment
All of the above treatment modalities may result in red, irritated skin in treated areas to some degree.
What can I do to prevent Actinic Keratoses?
Avoiding exposure to ultraviolet light can help prevent actinic keratoses. Ways to protect your skin:
• Seek shade, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when sun is the strongest
• Wear protective clothing, including sunglasses to protect the eyes
• Use sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, applying generously and reapplying every 2 hours
• Never use a tanning bed