Actinic Keratosis (AK)

actinic keratosis

An actinic keratosis is one of the most common skin conditions we treat. *It is estimated that upward of 40 million Americans develop AK’s every year.

An actinic keratosis is a pre-cancerous growth that is specifically caused by years of sun damage (and/or indoor tanning beds). When UV rays from the sun hit our skin, it can damage cells within the skin called keratinocytes. Have you ever noticed dark spots on your skin after being out in the sun? Over time, repeated exposure and damage to these areas may result in a actinic keratosis.

AK’s are typically reddish or brownish in color and are often rough or scaly feeling. The face, scalp, ears, lips, arms, neck, and hands are amongst the most common areas AK’s develop because these are areas that are most frequently exposed to the sun.

If not treated, an AK runs the risk of developing into a squamous cell carcinoma –a form of skin cancer.

The best way to detect an AK is by staying on top of your regular full body skin exams, and paying close attention to any changes or new developments to your skin.

The good news is there are many treatment options available for actinic keratoses, including:

  • Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) or Cryosurgery – a method we use to freeze the precancerous spot(s) with liquid nitrogen.
  • Curettage & Electrodesiccation: For thick AK’s we may scrape the area and then heat it to ensure precancerous cells are mitigated.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): This is a more comprehensive treatment. Patients who develop reoccurring AK’s are the most likely candidates for this treatment type.
  • Laser resurfacing: This is our preferred technique for treating AK’s on the lips.