Actinic Keratosis (Pre-Cancer)
What is actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a common skin condition characterized by rough, scaly patches on the skin that are caused by sun exposure. These patches, which are often red or pink in color, can occur on any area of the skin that has been exposed to the sun, but are most common on the face, ears, scalp, and back of the hands.
What causes actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis is caused by damage to the skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This damage can lead to the production of abnormal skin cells, which can eventually develop into skin cancer. While actinic keratosis is not cancerous on its own, it can progress to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer, if left untreated.
How is actinic keratosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of actinic keratosis typically involves a physical examination of the affected skin by one of our dermatologists. Our dermatologist will look for the presence of rough, scaly patches on the skin and may also perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the prognosis of actinic keratosis?
The prognosis for actinic keratosis is generally good if the condition is treated early. If left untreated, however, actinic keratosis can progress to SCC, which can be more difficult to treat and may require more extensive treatment such as surgery.
What are the treatment options of actinic keratosis?
There are several treatment options available for actinic keratosis, including:
Topical medications: Topical creams and ointments, such as imiquimod and fluorouracil, can be applied directly to the affected skin to kill abnormal cells and help prevent the development of skin cancer.
Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy involves the use of extreme cold to freeze and destroy abnormal skin cells. This treatment is often performed in a doctor's office and may cause temporary redness, swelling, and blistering of the treated skin.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT): PDT involves the use of a photosensitizing agent and a special light source to kill abnormal skin cells. This treatment is typically performed in our office and may cause temporary redness, swelling, and crusting of the treated skin.
Laser therapy: Laser therapy uses a high-energy beam of light to destroy abnormal skin cells. This treatment is usually performed in our office and may cause temporary redness, swelling, and crusting of the treated skin.
Surgery: In some cases, actinic keratosis may be removed surgically. This may be necessary if the condition is widespread or if there is a high risk of the condition progressing to skin cancer.
It is important to remember that prevention is key when it comes to actinic keratosis. To help reduce your risk of developing this condition, be sure to protect your skin from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. If you have a history of actinic keratosis or other skin cancers, it is especially important to be diligent about sun protection.
At Mid-County Dermatology is located at Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis, MO and we are committed to helping you maintain healthy, beautiful skin. If you have concerns about actinic keratosis or any other skin condition, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our team of experienced dermatologists is here to help you achieve your best skin health.