Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis Treatment & Clinical Trials in South Florida

Actinic Keratosis on the hands and arms

What is Actinic Keratosis (AK)?

Actinic keratosis is one of the most common preventable conditions treated by dermatologists. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 new AK lesions are diagnosed each year. While these spots may look like simple sun damage, the difference between actinic keratosis and your average sun spot is that AK is precancerous.

Actinic keratosis, also known as AK, is a flaky spot or patch that appears on your skin, usually as a result of exposure to UV rays. There may be just one bump or there may be multiple bumps. Multiple bumps are referred to as keratoses.

What Does Actinic Keratosis Look Like?

It is important to know how to spot precancerous skin spots like actinic keratosis so the condition may be monitored or treated as necessary. According to research, AK lesions may be red or pink, yellow, tan or brown, flesh-toned, white, or gray. An AK may be very small and solitary or may be a part of a cluster of actinic keratoses that look somewhat like a blemish.

More than appearance, it may be the texture of a growth that indicates it is AK. These spots are typically rough or scaly. They occur where the skin has been exposed to the sun, so we often see them on the following:

  • Scalp where hair is thin or where there is baldness
  • Ears
  • Face
  • Lips
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Hands

What Causes Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is a potentially serious consequence of UV exposure. It is caused by natural sunlight and tanning lamps. When your skin absorbs too much ultraviolet light, damage to cells called keratinocytes may occur. This damage usually does not manifest into AK until years after the sun damage has taken place. Keratinocytes live in the outermost epidermis and are responsible for the skin’s texture. This is why AK lesions are usually rough or scaly.

How is Actinic Keratosis Diagnosed?

Your board-certified dermatologist can diagnose actinic keratosis by sight. When you consult with a dermatologist, you can expect a thorough consultation, review of your medical history and history of sun exposure, and a careful examination of your skin. A full skin cancer screening may be performed to check not only the spot in question but all spots or growths on your skin. If you have one or more AKs, you have a higher risk of skin cancer so can benefit from this exhaustive examination.

How is Actinic Keratosis Treated?

Several AK treatment options exist. Your dermatologist will recommend treatment based on the characteristics and location of your growths. In some cases, treatment may be conducted at home by applying a topical medication as directed. In the office, actinic keratosis may be treated using one or more of the following:

  • Cryotherapy. This brief treatment involves the application of a substance like liquid nitrogen. Over several days after this treatment, damaged cells are sloughed off. More than one application may be necessary to fully eradicate an AK growth.
  • Photodynamic therapy.  Performed in the office, photodynamic therapy involves the application of a special medication onto the AK. After 60 to 90 minutes of the medication absorbing into the lesion, the doctor then applies red or blue light to the area. The light interacts with the medication to destroy abnormal cells. Two treatments may be needed.
  • Curettage. This procedure may be performed using a local anesthetic to numb the skin. The doctor then uses a small instrument called a curette to scrape away the abnormal cells.

Your doctor can help determine which of the above treatment options may be best. In addition, actinic keratosis clinical trials may be another treatment option to consider if other therapies fail to produce successful results.

What Can Happen if Actinic Keratosis Goes Untreated?

If you notice the signs of actinic keratosis, it is wise to see a dermatologist sooner rather than later. Some AK lesions can become squamous cell carcinomas if not treated. Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancer. With early treatment, you can avoid significant risks to your health and appearance. While squamous cell carcinoma is typically not life-threatening, there is a slight risk that the cancer may metastasize to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

Schedule Your Consultation

If you have been unsuccessful in finding the right treatment option for your actinic keratosis sign up for a future clinical trial today. With over 25 years of experience in the execution of dermatological clinical trials, our team is highly trained and committed to ensuring that all clinical guidelines are met and that the rights of every patient are always protected. Call 561-948-3116 or fill out the form on this page to learn more about our clinical trial options.