Actinic Keratosis

(Plural: Actinic Keratoses)


Actinic keratoses are very common, precancerous skin lesions that arise over time from past sun damage.  We tend to notice more of these as we age as our past sun damage catches up with us.  These are most common on sun exposed areas, such as the face, ears, nose, and scalp.  We can also see them on the arms and legs. 

They can sometimes be itchy or painful, but most patients just notice the skin feels perpetually rough.  They may be sensitive to the touch.  Patients with fair skin are at particular risk.



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Treatment of actinic keratoses can destroy individual spots, reducing the chance of them evolving into a skin cancer.  Actinic keratoses tend to be the precancerous form of squamous cell carcinoma, which is much harder to treat.  This is why we recommend treatment.

Treatment can include freezing individual spots with liquid nitrogen, electricity and cautery, creams and gels that can cause a peel immediately, or used over a long period of time to prevent actinic keratoses, and in office procedures involving a special light to help peel off visible and also microscopic actinic keratoses.

Wearing sunscreen helps keep the immune system of the skin healthier and able to prevent as many of these actinic keratoses from forming as possible, and also protects against further damage.  We recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF applied to high risk areas daily, with reapplication every 2 hours in intense sunlight.