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What causes Actinic Keratosis?

Repeated, prolonged sun exposure causes skin damage, especially in fair-skinned persons. Sun-damaged skin becomes dry and wrinkled and may form rough, scaly spots called Actinic Keratoses. These rough spots remain on the skin even though the crust or scale is picked off. Treatment of an Actinic Keratosis requires removal of the defective skin cells. New skin then forms from the deeper skin cells, which have escaped sun damage.

Why treat Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratoses are not skin cancers. Because they may sometimes turn cancerous, however, they should be removed. Dr. Petrin treats Actinic Keratosis for patients in our region.

How do I treat Actinic Keratosis?

The most common way to destroy Actinic Keratoses is to freeze them with liquid nitrogen. Freezing causes blistering and shedding of the sun-damaged skin. Sometimes we're not sure if the growth is harmless. When this occurs we may cut the growth off and send it for microscopic analysis (biopsy). Healing after removal takes 2 - 3 weeks depending on the size and location of the keratosis. Hand and legs heal more slowly than the face. The skin's final appearance is usually excellent.

When there are many keratoses, a useful treatment is the application of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or of Aldara cream. The applications continue until your physician determines that your results are satisfactory. These topical creams are effective in removing Actinic Keratoses from the face. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is effective treatment performed in the office.

How do I prevent Actinic Keratosis?

Sun damage is permanent. Once sun damage has progressed to the point where Actinic Keratoses develop, new keratoses may appear even without further sun exposure. You should avoid excessive sun exposure - but don't go overboard and deprive yourself of the pleasure of being outdoors. Reasonable sun protection should be your aim.