Actinic Keratoses are precancerous skin lesions that may progress into squamous cell carcinomas. They usually occur in fair skinned individuals after years of sun exposure. Typical actinic keratoses are sandpaper-like rough, red spots that are more easily felt than seen. Most often, they are found on skin that receives the most sun: the forehead, ears, neck, arms, hands, lower lip and bald scalps.
Prevention of actinic keratoses begins by avoiding prolonged sun exposure and using sunscreen. These measures should start in childhood, as the sun damage responsible begins in early life.
Causes of Actinic Keratoses
Sun exposure is the cause of almost all actinic keratoses. Sun damage to the skin accumulates over time, so that even a brief exposure adds to the lifetime total. The likelihood of developing keratoses is highest in regions close to the equator. However, regardless of climate, everyone is exposed to the sun. Ultraviolet rays reflect off sand, snow, and other surfaces; about 80 percent can pass through clouds.
Are you at risk?
People who have fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue, green, or gray eyes are at the greatest risk. Because their skin has less protective pigment, they are the most susceptible to sunburn. Even those who are darker-skinned can develop keratoses if they expose themselves to the sun without protection. African-Americans, however, rarely have these lesions.
Individuals, who are immunosuppressed as a result of cancer, chemotherapy, AIDS, or organ transplantation, are also at higher risk.
Various modalities are used to treat actinic keratoses. Cryosurgery, or freezing involved areas with liquid nitrogen, is the usual treatment for patients with few lesions. For widespread actinic keratoses, we offer photodynamic therapy, a light-based treatment, to efficiently eradicate these potentially precancerous lesions. Other options for field treatment include topical chemotherapeutics and immunomodulators.
To learn more about actinic keratoses treatment options, contact Greenbrae Dermatology to schedule a consultation.