Actinic keratosis (or “solar keratosis”) is one of the most common lesions seen as we age. Due to chronic sun exposure, these lesions are most frequently seen on the sun-exposed skin areas such as the face, scalp, neck, lateral arms, back, and legs. Not surprisingly, they are far more common in light-skinned people who have less pigment (melanin) in their skin to protect them from injurious sunlight. They are usually flat and may be lightly pigmented or finely scaly. Sometimes they are more easily felt than seen. They are usually not painful, itchy, or otherwise symptomatic.
Actinic keratoses, if left untreated, may progress into squamous cell carcinoma. Although this is certainly not always the case, treatment is usually straightforward and minimizes this possibility. Patients with relatively few lesions are most frequently treated by freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen. This is a relatively painless office procedure and does not require local anesthesia. Patients with numerous lesions may, alternatively, may be treated using topical medications or other modalities.
After diagnosing and treating actinic keratoses, Dr. Lober always recommends sun avoidance, the use of protective clothing, and the use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater. This will help minimize the chance of your developing other lesions in the future. He also recommends follow-up visits to his office so that actinic keratoses or skin cancers can be detected early should they occur.