When you’re out in the sun, you’re accumulating more UV rays on your skin. And while sunlight is good for us, too much can cause harm. For example, we need the sun to provide us with Vitamin D, but too much sun can lead to sunburn or issues that show up years later. If you’ve recently started feeling or noticing uneven patches on your skin, like little slivers or patches of rough skin, then you may have developed actinic keratosis.
What is it?
Actinic keratosis (also called solar keratosis) starts to form when your skin is has been damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from excess time spent out in the sun or from indoor tanning. Actinic keratosis is generally shows up as a rough, crusty, or scaly patch of skin on a part of your body that gets a lot of time in the sun. The backs of hands, a bald scalp, or the shoulders are places where you may find them. Many times, you’ll develop more than one.
Is it dangerous?
Actinic keratosis is technically precancerous, though we can often catch and treat them before they become cancer. Around six to ten percent of AKs can develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) if they are left untreated so, though the chances are slim, there is still a chance that one could turn into cancer.
We recommend removing them whenever possible, but it depends on you and your specific concerns and situation to know if removal is right for you. Removing the lesion before it becomes cancerous can prevent more invasive procedures, so we recommend removal most of the time.
How can I treat it?
If you’re looking to remove actinic keratosis, there are a few options that we can offer you. Chemical peels, Photodynamic Therapy, and topical medications can all be used to help treat and remove actinic keratosis. Cryotherapy is also a good option, where we can freeze the lesion off similarly to how you may have a wart or other skin lesion removed.