What is actinic keratoses?
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are rough, dry, scaly patches of skin that develop due to excessive sun exposure. Also known as solar keratoses keratosis, these patches are the result of UV rays from the sun or indoor tanning beds. Most people develop more than one AK, and if that is the case for you, we recommend that you request an appointment with one of our dermatologists today. AKs are considered precancerous, although if they are left untreated, actinic keratoses may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
What are the causes?
When ultraviolet (UV) rays hit our skin, they cause damage. When we’re young, in the beginning, the body is able to repair some of the damage. But over time as we age, that damage will accumulate, and it becomes harder and harder for the body to repair itself. If UV rays continue to hit sun-damaged skin, AKs may develop.
Actinic keratoses tend to develop in people with:
- Fair skin
- Significant sun exposure or a history of high sun exposure
- A weakened immune system
They usually appear after the age of 40, but can appear much earlier if you have had more sun exposure over the years, get a lot of sunlight, or used tanning beds and sun lamps.
How can I prevent AKs?
Once sun damage has progressed to the point where actinic keratoses develop, new keratoses may appear even without further sun exposure. Yet the best and most effective way to prevent new AKs is by sun protection and avoidance. Using sunscreen, hats and clothing is essential in preventing new lesions and future skin cancer. There are topical treatment strategies that DermPhysicians can tailor to your skin in order to help prevent AKs as well.
Treating Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratoses are pre-cancerous lesions caused by accumulated sun exposure over the course of years. They are commonly and effectively treated with cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen. This is a procedure done during an office visit.
Prescription topical medications, such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream and Imiquimod cream, can be used to treat your AKs at home. These can treat many lesions at a time and also act preventatively.
Schedule an appointment
If you suffer from actinic keratoses (AKs), or you feel that you may have AKs, schedule an appointment at our office in Burlington, Massachusetts. Our board-certified dermatologists will ensure that your AKs are safely and effectively treated. In addition to cryotherapy and prescription medication, we also provide chemical peels to treat AKs and promote new, healthier skin. To get started, request an appointment online or give us a call at (781) 272-7022.