The South Shore’s Most Progressive  & Established Dermatology Practice

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratoses (AKs) are growths that form on the skin from excessive and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays, most commonly from the sun and tanning beds.

Actinic Keratoses are considered precancerous and could develop into squamous cell carcinomas if left untreated. They are not caused by recent exposure, but by exposure from decades ago. These precancerous lesions occur years later as a result of changes that were made to the skin’s DNA at the time of exposure.

Patients often notice them as scaly pink patches that appear on their faces, scalps, extremities and/or lips. Actinic Keratosis should be evaluated, treated and monitored by a dermatologist. Early detection and treatment can often cure them before they become skin cancers.

Because AKs are the result of sun damage from years gone by, remember that new AKs can continue to appear, even with sunscreen use. Don’t get discouraged! Continue to protect your skin and to see your dermatologist regularly.

Actinic Keratosis Warning Signs
  • A rough or scratchy feeling patch of skin on sun-exposed surfaces
  • Itching, pain or burning of persistent spots
  • Constant dryness to the lips (particularly the lower lip)
Actinic Keratosis Treatments
  • Cryotherapy is the most common treatment. It destroys AKs by freezing them. The treated area will form a small blister and peel, thereby eradicating the AKs.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is an in-office treatment where a special solution is applied to the skin that makes it more sensitive to a safe “blue light.” Upon exposure to this blue light, the solution is activated and destroys the surface of the AKs. After a series of treatments spaced one month apart, the AKs can be completely eliminated.
  • Chemical Peel (Medical Grade) targets the top layer of skin, destroying AKs. The treated skin will be red and irritated, but healthy new skin will soon replace it.
  • Laser Resurfacing is similar to a chemical peel in that the top layer of damaged skin is treated and will be replaced with new growth of healthy skin. The treated area will be irritated and sore until healed, revealing new healthy skin. This treatment is most commonly used on the lower lip
  • Prescription Medication may be recommended by your dermatologist to treat your AKs. These generally cause controlled irritation that, over time, also can eradicate the AKs. Some of these creams include: 5-fluorouracil (Carac or Efudex), and Imiquimod (Aldara or Zyclara).
Actinic Keratosis Prevention Tips
  • Apply broad spectrum sunscreens of SPF 30 or higher everyday
  • Wear lip balms with sunscreens
  • Wear sun protective clothing, including hats
  • Avoid midday sun (10am – 2pm)
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Check your skin regularly for any changes
  • Report any changes to your dermatologist
  • Keep all scheduled dermatology appointments

To schedule an appointment, please call 508-747-0711 or request one online today.