It’s impossible to tell exactly which patches or lesions will develop into skin cancer. Therefore, actinic keratoses are usually removed as a precaution. Your doctor can discuss with you which treatment is appropriate for you.
- Freezing (cryotherapy). Liquid nitrogen, is applied to skin lesions. The substance freezes the skin surface, causing blistering or peeling. As your skin heals, the lesions slough off, allowing new skin to appear. This is the most common treatment, takes only a few minutes, and can be performed at the time of your appointment.
- Topical Creams. Some topical medications contain fluorouracil (Efudex or Carac), a chemotherapy drug. The medication destroys actinic keratosis cells by blocking essential cellular functions within them. Another treatment option is imiquimod (Aldara), a topical cream that modifies the skin’s immune system to stimulate your body’s own rejection of precancerous cells.
- Photodynamic Therapy. With this procedure, Levulan, an agent that makes your damaged skin cells sensitive to light (photosensitizing agent) is applied topically for 1-2 hours prior to activation with a laser or light source. You will then develop some redness and swelling over the next week as the damaged skin peels off.
- Chemical Peeling. This involves applying one or more chemical solutions to the lesions. The chemicals cause your skin to blister and eventually peel, allowing new skin to form. This procedure may not be covered by insurance, because it’s considered cosmetic.
- Antioxidants – Try SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum, SkinMedica’s C&E Complex & SkinCeutical’s Phloretin CF®
- Retinols and Renova
You can reduce your risk of Actinic Keratosis by minimizing your sun exposure and protecting your skin from UV rays. Take these steps to protect your skin from the sun:
- Limit your time in the sun. Avoid staying in the sun so long that you get a sunburn or a suntan. Both result in skin damage that can increase your risk of developing Actinic Keratoses and skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over time may also cause an Actinic Keratosis. Set time limits when at the pool or beach or when you’re spending time outdoors in the winter. Snow, water and ice all reflect and intensify the sun’s harmful rays, and UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Clouds block only a small portion of UV radiation.
- Use sunscreen. Before spending time outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it every two hours or more often if you swim or sweat.
- Cover up. For extra protection from the sun, wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than does a baseball cap or golf visor. You might also consider wearing clothing or outdoor gear specially designed to provide sun protection.
- Avoid tanning beds and tan-accelerating agents. Tanning beds emit ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which are often touted as less dangerous than ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. But UVA light penetrates deeper into your skin, causes actinic keratoses and increases your risk of skin cancer. Also, avoid using suntan-accelerating products. Sunless tanning lotions or bronzing lotions that produce a tanned look without sun exposure are a safe choice, if you continue to use sunscreen when outdoors.
- Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin regularly, looking for the development of new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine the tops and undersides of your arms and hands.