Why Actinic Keratosis Should be Treated

actinic keratosisActinic keratosis has been recognized as a potential precursor to squamous cell skin cancer. Also called solar keratosis, this skin lesion is usually characterized by scaling and crustiness. Usually, if one actinic keratosis develops, it will be surrounded by more over time. Statistics indicate that it is possible for actinic keratoses to resolve on their own. Sometimes, growths disappear and reappear periodically.

Having a persistent or recurring experience with actinic keratosis doesn’t necessarily mean that skin cancer will develop. So why should these growths be treated and how do you know if you have true actinic keratosis?

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How to Spot Actinic Keratosis

A direct result of too much UV light, an actinic keratosis is usually seen on the neck and shoulders, on the face and ears, the forearms and backs of the hands, and even on bald spots. These lesions have been associated with natural sunlight and with exposure to tanning bed lamps. One of the ways to spot an actinic keratosis is to notice the skin’s texture (rough like a wart) and color (pink, dark tan, flesh-toned). Some growths eventually become red are develop redness around affected skin. Usually, patients discover an actinic keratosis through feel rather than sight.

Why a Dermatologist Should Examine Actinic Keratosis

The majority of actinic keratoses found are benign and never transform into skin cancer. However, these growths are an indication of sun damage that could develop into skin cancer (usually squamous cell carcinoma). Experts have suggested that the longer an actinic keratosis persists without treatment, the higher the chance of developing squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma.

A dermatologic exam of an abnormal skin growth is vital to health and wellness. If squamous cell carcinoma is treated early, the prognosis is usually good. Ongoing SCC can lead to deformation and even death in some cases. An actinic keratosis provides us with an opportunity to stop skin cancer before it starts. An examination can differentiate between standard actinic keratosis and actinic cheilitis, a variant of AK. Because actinic cheilitis can be aggressive, early treatment is crucial. This lesion is often found on the lip.

As our awareness about skin cancer continues to increase, medicine develops additional forms of detection and treatment. Stay informed about your skin and skin cancer risks. Schedule a consultation with a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist. Search our database to find an experienced dermatologist near you.

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If you are a dermatologist or pathologist interested in membership with the American Society for Mohs Surgery, call (800) 616-2767 for detailed information.

Posted in: Skin Cancer

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