Destruction of Precancers - Actinic Keratoses
What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis is a common skin disorder that is a consequence of repeated and prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Where Does Actinic Keratosis Appear?
Actinic (or solar) keratosis is a thickening of the outer, protective layer of skin, usually forming flat, rough, scaly lesions that may be brownish or somewhat pink in color. The lesions feel rough and may develop a thick, horny surface. Actinic keratoses (plural) usually appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears, neck, chest, backs of hands, and forearms.
Those Prone to Actinic Keratosis
People who are light haired and fair skinned, who do not tan but burn when exposed to the sun, are most likely to develop actinic keratoses. Those who spend their lives working outdoors also are prone to this condition.
Treatment of Actinic Keratosis
It is important for you to be under the care of a physician, as the lesions of actinic keratosis are premalignant and may develop into skin cancer. Treatment usually involves application of liquid nitrogen, which freezes the lesions causing it to separate from the normal skin underneath. Other treatment options include application of topical anti-cancer drugs (Zyclara, Aldara, 5 FU, Solaraze), photodynamic therapy, and chemical peels.
Great care should be taken to avoid additional sun exposure. When outdoors, try to wear a brimmed hat and long sleeves. Exposed skin should be protected with a highly effective sunscreen. Generally, sunscreens work best if applied to the skin 15 - 30 minutes before sun exposure, and should be reapplied periodically.
Treat larger areas and take longer than some of the other methods. Medication is usually applied daily over a period of time creating a reaction over the treatment area. There may be significant reactions if there are many lesions involved. These medications may control the AK's for a longer period of time. There is generally no scarring with this type of treatment. Chief side effects are redness, oozing, and crusting at the treatment site.
Consists of applying liquid nitrogen to the skin. This creates a blister which should flake off in a few weeks and be replaced by new skin. While it takes just a few minutes to "freeze" the AK, it may take as long as 72 hours to develop. The chief side effect is redness in the area treated.
Chemical Peels are another treatment option for AK's. A Chemical solution chosen by your Dermatologist is applied to your skin. Your skin will peel of the next several days depending on the depth of the peel. Fresh, new skin will replace the treated area. The chief side effects are redness and swelling of the skin in the treated area.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) involves applying a sensitizing chemical to your skin for a short period of time then exposing your skin to a "blue" light to activate the chemical and destroy the AK's. The lesions should slough off after a few days to a week. The chief side effect is redness similar to sunburn and sun sensitivity for a period of time. Sunlight must be avoided strictly for the first 24 hours after the treatment, and moderately for another 24 hours.