Actinic Keratoses Facts
Actinic keratoses (singular actininc keratosis), also called “AKs”, are skin growths that are precursors to skin cancer. Specifically, AKs can develop into squamous cell skin cancer. They do not develop into any other type of skin cancer. Usually the progression to actual skin cancer occurs when AKs have been neglected for a period of time and have become quite thick in size. Why does one develop AKs? AKs are strictly associated with excess sun exposure. Often this is sun exposure that was sustained as a child, teen and young adult that leads to the development of AKs. AKs can appear as red flat spots or red, scaly elevated spots. They occur on areas of skin frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, chest, hands and arms. With regard to treatment we most often use liquid nitrogen to treat individual AKs. However, when AKs are particularly widespread or large in number photodynamic therapy (PDT) or prescription creams can also be used. PDT is an in office procedure where a solution is applied to the area of AKs and then the patient sits under a blue light which activates the ingredient in the solution. Aldara, Efudex and Picato are examples of some of the prescription creams that can be used at home to help clear AKs. All of the options for treatment can result in redness, scaling and scabbing, which takes approximately 7-14 days to completely heal. Lastly and importantly, there are ways to help prevent AKs from developing. By far the most important thing one can do is sun protection in the form of sunscreen, sun protective clothing and hats. At skinfo®, there are several products available that are specifically for those who are at risk for developing AKs or who already have such. These products are also beneficial for those who have a history of skin cancer. These products include Isdin Eryfotona Actinica® Ultra Light SPF 50+ ($50, 3.4oz), Elizabeth Arden PRO Protection Factor SPF 50+ Triple ($76, 1.7oz) and Priori Cellular Recovery Cream ($90, 1.7oz). All of these contain different types of DNA repair enzymes. DNA repair enzymes naturally exist in our skin to help repair sun damage. Now you can apply products externally to assist as well. ISDIN and Elizabeth Arden have the added benefit of also being sunscreens. Please come in today for assistance with what products would be best for you.
*Photos courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation