An actinic keratosis is a flaky patch of sun damaged skin that occurs most frequently on the face, neck, scalp, arms and hands. The nose, ears and lips are most commonly involved sites on the face. The flaking is easily rubbed off, but usually comes back, generally within a few days. A small minority of these lesions will go on to develop skin cancer, usually a low grade squamous or basal cell carcinoma (see Five Warning Signs of Skin Cancer).
Treatment is usually by freezing, either with liquid nitrogen or with a self contained system such as Verruca Freeze. Other treatments include topical prescription creams that are applied once or twice a day for an extended period of time. The goal of therapy is to destroy the precancerous cells, and allow normal skin to grow in its place. Treatment of an actinic keratosis is important because, if and when a skin cancer develops, it usually requires surgical removal. It is recommended that one apply a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sun block of 15 SPF or higher every couple of hours when out in the sun to decrease the risk of developing actinic keratoses and possible skin cancer.
If you think you might have an actinic keratosis and are a member of North Idaho Direct Primary Care, contact our office to set up an appointment for a lesion inspection. If you are not a member of our practice and would like to learn more about how we work, click here for further reading. If you found this article helpful, you can click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter.