ACTINIC KERATOSIS

  • Actinic keratosis (AK) is considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. If left untreated it may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. AK typically appears on sun-exposed areas such as the face, bald scalp, lips, and the back of the hands, and is often elevated, rough in texture, and resembles a wart. Most become red, but some will be tan, pink, red, and/or flesh-toned. The lesion is dry, scaly and rough (like sandpaper), ranges from the size of a pinhead to larger than a 25 fil coin.

    Causes
    AK is a common lesion of the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) and it is caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. However, the following groups of people are more likely to develop the condition:

    • People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blonde or red hair
    • Those who have had a kidney or other transplant
    • People who take medicines that suppress the immune system
    • Individuals who experienced many severe sunburns early in life
    • Older people

What You Can Do

Prevention is still and will always be better than cure. And this should begin early in life. One should be aware that the sun can bring good but at the same time damage our skin if exposure to it is excessive. However, it is never too late to initiate prevention of new actinic keratoses lesions in adulthood.

What We Can Do For You

Our doctor diagnoses actinic keratoses by closely examining the skin. Should the doctor find a growth that is thick or looks like an early stage of cancer, he or she will likely perform a skin biopsy, which will be sent to the laboratory for examination. If confirmed, the doctor will treat the area with repeated sessions until the growth or lesion goes, thus preventing skin cancer. Many of the treatments the dermatologist can offer for actinic keratoses can be performed in the clinic and can be continued at home. The goal of this treatment is to destroy the precancerous lesion. The treatment includes:

  • Cryosurgery/Cryotherapy – the most common treatment that destroys the lesion by freezing surface skin with liquid nitrogen. The treated skin often blisters and peels off within a few days to a few weeks.  When the skin heals, you may see a small white mark.
  • Topical Chemotherapy – a medicated topical anti-cancer cream or solution that is a very effective form of treatment.
  • Chemical Peeling – this treatment is primarily used for anti-ageing but it can also help remove AK on the face. A chemical solution is applied to the area, after which the top layers of skin will eventually slough off.  This requires local anaesthesia and may cause temporary discolouration and irritation.
  • Laser Skin Resurfacing – a series of treatments with carbon dioxide or our Er:YAG laser removes surface skin to a desired depth. This treatment is a good option for lesions in small or narrow areas.  Local anaesthesia is advised and the risk of hypo-pigmentation (lightening of the skin) can occur.
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