Actinic Keratoses

Actinic keratoses are a precancerous skin condition. This condition, also known as solar keratoses, most commonly affects fair-skinned, light-haired adults over the age of thirty, but anyone of any age or ethnicity is at risk. While actinic keratoses are very treatable, it is important to identify and diagnose them as soon as possible. If not caught early, the condition can develop into skin cancer.

This condition is most likely to turn into squamous cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. While it will not transition into melanoma, there is still a risk of chronic illness and, without any treatment, death. If you suspect you have this condition, make an appointment at one of our Minneapolis-area offices. We can diagnose and treat a range of skin lesions.


Actinic Keratoses Causes

Actinic keratoses is primarily caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, typically in the form of the sun or tanning beds. Less commonly, cancer-causing agents, called carcinogens, such as radiation and certain chemicals, can also cause actinic keratoses. It is this exposure to ultraviolet light and carcinogens that damages the DNA of epidermal (skin) cells. The DNA damage causes the skin cells to develop and grow abnormally, eventually mutating into precancerous actinic keratoses.


Actinic Keratoses Symptoms

With a practiced eye, actinic keratoses is easily recognizable. It can appear as dry, scaly, rough or crusty patches on the surface of the skin. Color of these patches vary from slightly red, light beige to dark brown and can also vary in size. Sometimes, the lesions can be slightly tender to the touch.

Generally, actinic keratoses affect the face, ears, neck, lips, backs of the hands and forearms. This is because these areas are likely to receive the most exposure to sunlight.


Treatment for Actinic Keratoses

Actinic keratoses will sometimes go away on their own. However, the lesions will usually return after more sun exposure. We do not recommend waiting to see if the lesions disappear, as it can be difficult to know if, and when, they develop into skin cancer. If you suspect you have actinic keratoses on your skin, make an appointment with us.

Actinic keratoses can be successfully resolved by several different treatments. This most often includes topical medications, like Diclofenac, 5-flurorouracil, Imiquimod, and Ingenol mebutate. All of these medications require a doctor’s prescription.

This condition also responds well to cryotherapy, wherein a physician freezes off the precancerous tissue, similar to freezing off a wart. Light therapy, also known as photodynamic therapy, has also been successful at removing these lesions, as has laser therapy. Talk to your doctor about the treatment option that will work best for you.

When to See a Skin Care Specialist

If you suspect you have this condition, don’t wait to schedule your appointment. While actinic keratoses are not dangerous on their own, they are the most common form of precancerous skin lesion. The majority of squamous cell carcinoma begins as this type of lesion, so receiving early treatment is critical.

If you’re curious about whether you have this condition, we recommend scheduling a routine skin cancer check at one of our offices. A total body exam is an excellent way to catch skin cancers in their earliest stages. During this exam, we can diagnose precancerous tissues and cancer. Even if we don’t find anything, you’ll leave with the peace of mind of knowing you are free of skin cancer.


Contact us to schedule an appointment or virtual visit today.

*Results may vary per patient. Services vary by location.