Actinic, solar keratoses are pre-cancers that look like dry, rough, scaly growths. They may be red, pink or skin colored. Actinic keratosis indicates sun damage and most commonly appears on face, ears, lips, bald scalp, back of the neck, hands, forearms and any other skin areas frequently exposed to the sun. 40-60% of squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) start as untreated actinic keratoses and may spread and invade the surrounding tissues. 2-10% of SCC are life threatening since they spread to internal organs. Actinic chelitis is a form of actinic keratoses which develop on the lips, especially the bottom lip may evolve into squamous cell carcinoma.
Although only 10% of actinic keratoses develop into skin cancer, there is no way to determine which are precursors to SCC. Thankfully, there are many effective ways to eliminate actinic keratoses before they become skin cancers.
- Cryotherapy: most common treatment method. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the actinic keratoses. The lesions may shrink, blister, scab over then fall off. Temporary redness and swelling may occur, and in some cases may leave white spots.
- Curettage and Desiccation: which scrape away pre-cancer cells and uses electricity to burn them
- Topical medications: topical chemotherapy agents applied by the patient for 2-4 weeks until the sun damaged skin becomes painful, red, crusty, swollen and may develop ulcers. The treated areas heal within 2 weeks and rarely causes scarring.
Would you like to learn more about Actinic Keratoses? Call (661) 949-0004 to schedule a consultation at AV Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center.