What are Actinic Keratoses (AK’s) ?

AK’s are gritty papules in sun exposed areas that are considered “pre-skin cancer” to squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. They come about from cumulative sun damage.

Who gets AK’s ?

Generally adults and mostly older adults who have had significant sun exposure.

How do I know if I have it?

These feel like rough papules in sun exposed areas, commonly the face and hands, but can occur on any part of the skin that has had significant sun exposure.

How can I treat it?

These are generally treated by a dermatologist, usually using liquid nitrogen therapy. In certain cases, particularly if many are present in a given area, prescription creams can be given to apply at home over a period of weeks. Additionally, photodynamic therapy or “blue light” is another treatment option.

How can I prevent it?

To prevent AK’s, it is important to do vigilant sun protection. Therefore, it is important to use sunscreen regularly, consider daily use on days when leaving the house and then reapplication every 2 hours and after wetness (from sweat or water). Protective clothing, such as a wide brimmed hat, can also be important. Other measures that may be taken are seeking shade and avoiding the outdoors during the sun’s peak hours of 10AM to 2PM.

When should I see a dermatologist about it?

You should see a dermatologist for your AK’s as soon as you notice them to confirm the diagnosis and treat them early. If these are left to grow they may transform into squamous cell cancer of the skin.

Additional Resources:
American Cancer Society