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
"All I can say is that Dr. Parker is THE MAN! He takes care of his patients! Go see him for your skin care needs!"- R.C. / Google / Sep 16, 2019
"Dr. Parker is an honest man, and I truly appreciate that. From my first consultation he only described the most realistic expectations anyone could hope for in my situation. I wasn't a typical patient, but he still did for me what no other doctor would. He gave me hope. Everyone in his office treated me with kindness and courtesy."- J.T. / Google / Feb 28, 2019
"Doctor Parker and his staff are the best."- J.W. / Facebook / Feb 21, 2019
"I was diagnosed with a Basal Cell Carcinoma on my shoulder and found Dr. Parker via his website. He was very thorough in answering all my concerns and questions, making me feel comfortable about the Mohs procedure. The results were better then I could have ever expected. The scar isn't even noticeable and people would never guess I ever had the Mohs procedure done!! Between Dr. Parker, the nurses and the delightful front staff, I felt very welcomed and treated just life family!"- A. / Wellness / Oct 24, 2018
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.