What is Actinic Keratosis? (AK’s)

Also called solar keratosis, AKs form on skin which has absorbed much sun over many years. It is a rough, dry, scaly patch that forms on skin when badly damaged by ultraviolet rays from sun or tanning beds. AKs are precancerous, and left untreated may turn into squamous cell carcinoma, which is a type of skin cancer. AKs can be treated before they become skin cancer.

How is actinic keratosis diagnosed?

If your dermatologist finds a thick growth that looks like skin cancer, a skin biopsy will likely be performed. which can be safely performed during an office visit. Skin cancer can often be cured if caught early.

How do dermatologists treat AKs?

There are many treatments. Some can be performed in the office, others you will use at home. Some patients receive more than one type of treatment, and there are various treatments for AKs:

  • Cryotherapy, which is freezing, or a medical grade chemical peel: these treatments affect the skin, which is replaced by new, healthy skin.
  • Curettage: After curettage, your dermatologist may use electrosurgery to remove damaged tissue, which cauterizes the skin. New, healthier skin will grow.
  • Laser resurfacing: A laser can remove the surface layer of the skin. The skin heals within weeks, revealing healthier new skin.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): The skin is exposed to a visible light, such as laser light. The light activates a light-sensitive solution applied to the skin beforehand.
  • Medicines that dermatologists prescribe include: 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream, diclofenac sodium gel , Imiquimod cream and ingenol mebutate gel.