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Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratoses, also known as solar keratoses, are regarded as pre-cancerous growths due to sun exposure. They are small, flat or elevated, red or skin-colored growths that often feel rough, like sandpaper. They are common in persons over 50 years of age, and found on the face, scalp, ears, forearms and backs of the hands.

Since a very small percentage of actinic keratoses will develop into non-melanoma skin cancers (usually squamous cell carcinoma), treatment is advised. Occasionally superficial skin cancers can be mistaken for actinic keratoses.

Treatments for actinic keratoses include:

Cryotherapy (freezing)
Topical chemotherapy agents:
5-fluorouracil (chemotherapy)
Imiquimod (immunomodulator)
Diclofenac (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)
ALA-Photodynamic therapy: a good treatment for widespread actinic keratoses. This method involves application of a photosensitizing agent called aminolevulinic acid, followed by exposure of the affected area to the blue or red wavelength of light.

Following this treatment, strict avoidance of any sun exposure for 48 hours is mandatory to avoid sunburn.

Almost all treatments of actinic keratosis will initially cause redness, inflammation, crusting and possibly blistering of the treated areas. Consult your dermatologist to discuss which option would be the most suitable for you.