Actinic Keratoses

An actinic keratosis (AK) is a premalignant condition found on sun-exposed skin. AKs usually appear as rough and scaly skin lesions and can lead to skin cancer if left untreated. At Kirsch Dermatology, we provide careful examination and treatment for all suspected AKs. Treatment of actinic keratoses can reduce your risk of skin cancer and help you live a healthier life.

Symptoms of Actinic Keratoses

Actinic keratoses are most often found on sun-exposed areas such as the face, head, neck, ears, forearms, and hands. They may meet any of the following descriptions:

  • Rough or scaly patches of skin
  • Bumps or horns of skin that are smooth or wrinkled
  • Yellow, brown, red, pink, violet, or mottled in color
  • Range in size from a pinpoint to several inches across

Common Risk Factors for Actinic Keratoses

Individuals at high risk of developing actinic keratoses include:

  • Have a personal history of skin cancer or AKs
  • Over age 40
  • Have fair skin, fair hair, and light eyes
  • Live in a sunny climate or spend a lot of time in the sun
  • Have a history of sun exposure, tanning, or sunburns
  • Have a weakened immune system

Treatment for Actinic Keratoses

Treatment for actinic keratoses begins with skin cancer screening and evaluation. If an AK is discovered, most likely a biopsy will be performed. Treatment options for the removal of AKs include:

  • Cryosurgery: The AK is frozen using liquid nitrogen, which destroys the lesion and causes it to fall off within 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Electrodessication and Curettage: The AK is cauterized with a high intensity electrical current.
  • Field Therapy: A topical treatment regimen may be recommended for multiple and subclinical AKs.

Treatment for actinic keratosis is usually successful, but new AKs may form in the future. If you have ever had actinic keratosis, you are at a significantly higher risk of developing actinic keratoses or skin cancer. A comprehensive skin exam every 6 to 12 months is the best way to catch and treat any premalignant or malignant skin tissue before it becomes a serious health concern.