The word “actinic” means that they are caused by exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, actinic keratosis can turn into squamous-cell carcinoma over time. For that reason, we will have to be alert to their appearance since they are precancerous lesions.

Usually this type of lesions are located in:

  • Ears
  • Neck
  • Bald areas of the scalp
  • Back of the hands
  • Forearms
  • Arms
  • Libs (*when they are located here they are called actinic cheilitis)

What does actinic keratoses look like?

Actinic keratosis in bald scalp

If raised lesions that are rough to the touch appear in the aforementioned areas and do not improve over time, we can suspect that they are actinic keratosis. They are usually of the skin color, a little red or brown (do not confuse with moles).

How long does it take for actinic keratosis to turn into cancer?

It changes for each person. It would depend on the individual’s susceptibility and exposure to sunlight and other factors previously mentioned, that cause it to become malignant. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin until they reach the dermis and their effects accumulate over time.

What is the common cause of actinic keratosis?

As we have said, the main factor is chronic overexposure to sunlight. On other hand, we identify other risk factors as well:

How is the diagnosis made?

In certain circumstances the dermatology expert diagnoses AK simply by physical examination. In these cases, dermatoscopy and other non-invasive imaging techniques will help differentiate them from other types of skin cancer.

Is there an over the counter treatment for actinic keratosis?

Available therapeutic options are the same as for non-melanoma skin cancers: cryotherapy, electrodissecation and curettage. Fortunately for us, treatments with BEC usually resolve actinic keratosis within a week. Here is our topical therapeutic option with Curaderm cream. It is highly effective and safe as shown in several published studies. (See Single blind controlled clinical trial Actinic keratosis – Bill E. Cham 2013).

To prevent the appearance of new lesions and as part of the treatment, it is necessary to avoid sun exposure and, if necessary, use a sunscreen indicated by the doctor.

Is it necessary to do follow-up medical controls after the treatment for actinic keratosis?

Yes, these lesions can reappear. Also, new lesions that were not so obvious may also appear. Therefore, keep in mind to regularly check the skin through a dermatology expert.