AK (Actinic Keratosis)

What is AK ?

  • Actinic keratosis (AK) is a common precancerous condition of SCC that affects nearly 60 million individuals in the United States. The presence of AK is also considered a marker for increased risk of developing BCC.

  • Approximately 75,000 new cases of melanoma and nearly 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

  • The development of non-melanoma skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma [SCC] and basal cell carcinoma [BCC], has been linked to repeated exposure to sun radiation over many years, whereas melanoma is also linked to the severity of sunburn

How do dermatologist treat Actinic Keratosis (also called Solar Keratosis):

  • Cryotherapy: A common treatment for AKs, this procedure can treat 1 or 2 AKs that you can clearly see. During cryotherapy, your dermatologist destroys the AK by spraying it with an extremely cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen.
    The treated skin tends to blister and peel off within a few days to a few weeks. When your skin heals, you’ll see new, healthy looking skin, which may look a bit lighter than the surrounding skin.

  • Chemical peel: This is a medical-grade chemical peel used to destroy the top layers of skin. You cannot get this type of chemical peel at a salon or from a kit sold for home use.

  • Curettage: If you have an extremely thick AK, this may the best treatment. During this procedure, your dermatologist first scrapes the AK from your skin, using a technique called curettage. Your dermatologist may follow this with a electrodesiccation, which heats the treated area to destroy any remaining AK cells.

  • Photodynamic therapy: This may be recommended for a patient who continues to get new AKs or has AKs that return after treatment. This procedure is a bit time-consuming because it consists of 2 parts.
    Most patients with AKs need 2 PDT treatments, with the second treatment given 3 weeks after the first.

  • Laser resurfacing: This may be a treatment option for actinic cheilitis, a precancerous growth on the lip. It works by removing the surface layer of the skin. After treatment, the skin will feel raw and sore. When it heals in 1 or 2 weeks, you see new, healthier skin.