Actinic or Solar Keratoses (AKs) are a precancerous skin change. They look scaly, rough, and can crack and peel. They are commonly seen in the lip area, but can occur on any sun-exposed areas. Untreated, some will turn into squamous cell cancer. While this type of cancer isn’t life-threatening when detected and treated early, in a few cases squamous cell carcinoma can grow to be large and invade surrounding tissues, with some even spreading (metastasizing) to other parts of your body.
Since it is impossible to tell which AK lesions will develop into squamous cell cancer, they are usually removed as precaution. Treatment options include cryotherapy, curettage, chemical peeling, laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, topical chemotherapeutic cream or ointment, and dermabrasion. Your treating physician will recommend which treatment is best for you. Treated areas take several days to a few weeks to heal.
The key to AK and skin cancer development is prevention. Another important consideration is to check and examine your skin regularly, looking for the development of new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. When in doubt, have your physician examine and/or biopsy suspicious lesions as soon as possible.
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