Actinic keratoses are some of the most common skin growths that Dr. Bahr sees. They are also are called “solar keratoses" because they are develop after years of exposure to the sun. Like skin cancer, they develop when UV light damages skin cells, causing the skin to become rough and scaly. Actinic Keratoses are considered precancerous because they can develop into a skin cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

What Do AKS Look Like?

Dr. Bahr identifies Actinic Keratoses by their dry, scaly, crusted, or rough appearance and texture. Actinic Keratoses can emerge as a single lesion, but also in large groups, covering large areas of skin. Actinic keratoses may range from the size of a pinhead to several centimeters.

Sometimes an Actinic Keratosis grows rapidly upward becoming a growth that resembles a "horn." This is called a "cutaneous horn." They vary in size from <1 to 3 mm. Dr. Bahr frequently sees these on the face and the hands. 

Patients may notice that their Actinic Keratoses disappear for weeks or months and then return. For this reason, it is important to treat AK's when you notice them. Left untreated, the damaged, precancerous cells can continue to grow into skin cancer.

Who Gets AKS?

Individuals with one or more of the following traits are most likely to develop Actinic Keratoses:

  • Red or blond hair
  • Blue eyes
  • Skin that freckles or burns when in the sun
  • >40 years old
  • use of a tanning bed

 

Where Do AKS Form On The Body?

Actinic Keratoses develop on areas of the body that have seen the most sun. These include the scalp, forehead, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands, and lower legs. 

Actinic Keratoses are also found on the border of the lip, appearing as a grey or white scaly patch. An AK on the lip is known as “actinic cheilitis." 

How Does Dr. Bahr Treat AKS?

Dr. Bahr recommends one of the following treatments based on location, severity, type, and personal preference. 

  • Cryotherapy: This is most frequently used. Dr. Bahr freezies the growth, causing the skin to flake off and new, healthy skin to form in its place.
  • Curettage: Dr. Bahr removes the growth by scraping it with an instrument called a curette. 
  • Chemo Cream (Fluorouracil): this is a cancer-fighting cream that is applied directly to Actinic Keratoses. It kills precancerous cells.
  • Imiquimod Cream: This is a medication that works with the body’s immune system to help destroy Actinic Keratoses.

 

How to Prevent AKS?

The best way to prevent Actinic Keratoses is to protect yourself from harmful UV light. Here are some useful tips: 

  • The sun's rays are strongest between 10 am. and 2 pm. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • When in the sun, try to wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeve shirt or a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (both UVA and UVB protection) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Choose water resistant sunscreen if you are going to sweat or swim. 
  • Don't forget to reapply your sunscreen. Dr. Bahr recommends reapplying every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Check your skin often and contact us if you notice a new growth that itches or bleeds, becomes thicker, or changes size, shape, or color.

 

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