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Actinic Keratosis Specialist

Absolute Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center -  - Dermatologist

Absolute Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center

Dermatologists & Mohs Surgeons located in Glen Allen, VA

Prevent skin cancer before it develops into a serious skin condition by addressing lesions called actinic keratosis. At Absolute Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center in Glen Allen, Virginia, William Gillen, MD, Patricia O’Connor, MD, and the team believe an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment” and are skilled at care options for these precancerous lesions. If you have a suspicious spot on your skin, call the Richmond-area office or book online today for an evaluation or treatment. If you have one or several spots you have noticed, consider that there might be others you haven’t noticed that require the attention of a dermatologist. We recommend regular total body skin cancer screenings for this purpose.

Actinic Keratosis Q & A

What causes actinic keratoses?

Actinic keratoses are crusty, scaly growths that may turn into squamous cell carcinoma if not treated. Damage from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays causes these lesions. Tanning bed use also contributes to their formation. Men and women with fair complexions and blonde or red hair and light eyes are usually most at risk for developing these lesions. 

They are sometimes very obvious and develop cutaneous horns, while other times, they can be felt more than they can be seen. In both cases, evaluation and treatment by a board-certified dermatologist are important.

While actinic keratoses aren’t skin cancer, it is the most common type of precancerous lesion. When untreated, these lesions can become squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer.

Where might I notice an actinic keratosis?

The parts of your body most frequently exposed to the sun may develop actinic keratosis. These include your:

  • Face
  • Ears
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Scalp
  • Back of hands
  • Forearms 

People can sometimes develop lesions on their shins or other parts of the leg, too.

What are the indications that a lesion is an actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratoses are typically pink scaly patches. They are sometimes very obvious and develop cutaneous horns, while other times, they can be felt more than they can be seen. Occasionally, they can be dark or flesh colors. It is always important to have concerning lesions evaluated in a timely manner as finding lesions before they develop into skin cancer, or in its early stages, can be crucial for treatment. 

How are actinic keratoses treated?

At Absolute Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center, the doctors strive for early detection and treatment of actinic keratoses during routine skin cancer screenings to help you avoid a cancer diagnosis. Treatment depends on the lesions’ location and nature of the growth.

You may undergo:

  • Cryosurgery, which involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the offending tissue
  • Curettage and desiccation, which means shaving or scraping off the lesion along with treatment to destroy remaining precancerous cells
  • Light or Photodynamic Therapy, which involves using light energy to dissolve lesions (you may have heard this referred to as ‘Blue Light’)

The doctors may also offer topical treatments, especially if you have numerous, widespread actinic keratoses and sun damage. You may benefit from chemical peels, or prescription gels or creams.

Some patients do well with phototherapy. During this therapy, the doctor applies a topical agent to your skin, followed by an intense light that activates the agent to destroy the lesions, while keeping healthy tissues safe.

Dr. Gillen and Dr. O’Connor may recommend a combination of both focal and field treatments, too, depending on the extent of your case. And as they want to prevent actinic keratoses from becoming squamous cell carcinomas, they want to prevent actinic damage from forming into discrete actinic keratoses. The right sun protection is crucial for preventing the dangerous sunburns that will lead to these lesions.

If you’re concerned you may have actinic keratoses, schedule an appointment with Absolute Dermatology & Skin Cancer by calling the office or send us a message to book an appointment on our contact page.

References and Resources:

https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/actinic-keratosis

https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/actinic-keratosis-overview