What is Actinic Keratosis?
An actinic keratosis, known as AK, also goes by the name solar keratosis. Similar to to squamous cell skin cancer, it may have a crusty, scaly appearance, usually the result of excessive sun or tanning bed exposure. AK lesions commonly appear in clusters, so often times an actinic keratosis is referred to as plural: actinic keratoses. AK is normally precancerous, and if left to its own devices, may become squamous cell carcinoma. AK is the most common type of precancer lesion and is most frequently found on the face, scalp, hands, forearms, and upper V of the chest. They can be challenging to spot since they are typically small. Many people first identify them by touch, comparing the texture to sandpaper. Our team of board-certified medical professionals at Skin Cancer Consultants in Dallas, TX, led by dual-trained Mohs surgeon and procedural dermatologist Dr. Thornwell Parker, is highly skilled at identifying and treating this skin condition.
"Great experience. Dr Parker and staff made me feel at ease when getting four skin cancers removed off my face. Scars barely visible. So thankful my Dermatologist recommended Dr. Parker. Highly recommend."- D. . / Wellness / Feb 17, 2016
"Excellent care, treatment and recovery. Dr Parker is friendly and professional. As is his staff. Others spoke highly of him too. After surgery, I had skin grafts to my nose and they were hardly noticible and not painful. He is a geniuses at fixing things. Be patient with him as he has so many needing his help."- M.J. / Google / Apr 09, 2017
"dr parker is the best!"- P.M. / Google / Jun 22, 2023
"Amazing "- M. / Healthgrades / Sep 06, 2022
"Dr Parker and his staff are amazing. Not only did he answer every question and concern I had, he listened and is was very down-to-earth. He is also helping me with locations where the cancer removal has disfigured my face. Skin cancer can be a little scary, but Dr Parker makes you feel very supported. The clinic is super clean, the staff is super nice and I would recommend him HIGHLY. A++"- M.H. / Healthgrades / Sep 24, 2021
Actinic keratoses can present in many different sizes, from a grain of sand to an inch in diameter. The bottom can be light or dark while the middle can display a variety of colors such as tan, pink, or red. Some people may also develop actinic keratoses on their lips, in which case it is referred to as actinic cheilitis and might include chapping, cracks, and discoloration. If you do see anything that looks remotely suspicious, contact Skin Cancer Consultants and arrange for a consultation immediately. As one of the leading authorities in the country on skin cancer, our staff will work with you to identify actinic keratosis or any other type of skin cancer.
Causes and Risks
Many people think that cloudy days are safer than sunny days since the sun is not directly hitting their skin. The truth is, even on completely cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays easily pass through those clouds. Additionally, extra damage is done when UV rays bounce off water, sand, or snow. Therefore sunscreen, protective eyewear, and proper clothing should be used at all times to decrease your odds of developing actinic keratoses. In addition, those with fair complexions, blonde or red hair, and light-colored eyes are at increased risk and should take extra precautions in the sun.
Fortunately, actinic keratoses are precancerous, so early recognition and treatment can remove the AKs from your skin before they turn into squamous cell carcinoma. Our medical professionals sometimes suggest a biopsy of a thicker or recurrent AK to rule out skin cancer. Depending on the extent of AK lesions, different types of treatments can be considered. If only a few actinic lesions are present, they are often treated with cryotherapy (freezing). However, when more lesions or signs of significant sun damage or present, we consider treating larger regions of the body at a time using other options like topical chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, chemical peels or laser resurfacing. This is called “field therapy” for the wider field of skin being treated. Topical chemotherapy includes a variety of topical medicines like 5-FU (carac or effudex), imiquimod (zyclara or aladara), diclofenac (solaraze), or ingenol mebutate (picato). Chemical peels and laser resurfacing give added cosmetic benefits, removing the outer layers or old damaged cells.
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Prevent, Advocate, and Attack
Sunscreen is very important and is one of the main weapons in the battle against actinic keratoses. It is critical, especially if you have a history of skin cancer, to apply at least SPF 30 sunscreen every two hours when out in the sun. Education about safety in the sun is also important. Some of the top goals to keep in mind when outside are to seek the shade, don’t burn, cover up with clothing and protective hats, and examine your own skin every month from top to bottom. Skin Cancer Consultants is comprised of a team of highly trained specialists with the latest technology to diagnose, prevent, and attack any skin cancer issues that may arise, including actinic keratoses. Call now to set up a consultation.