Actinic Keratoses/ Precancer

Pre-cancers on the skin or actinic keratosis are extremely common lesions. They most commonly appear on the head and arms as a result of chronic sun exposure. Left untreated, they can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. To find out which of the various treatment options is best for you or take steps to reduce your risk for skin cancer, call today or make an appointment online with Golden Coast dermatology, skin cancer, and vein center.


What are Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis/precancerous of the skin are scaly red bumps found in sun exposed areas of the body. They are very common in people with light skin types and even more common in those who live in sunny climate such as Orange county. They appear in various sizes and shapes. Often these lesions feel like rough spots on the skin that don’t seem to heal completely. They usually are painless and the frequency increases with age as well as cumulative lifetime sun exposure. Sadly, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. Even worse, someone in America dies of skin cancer every 30 minutes.

How can I prevent actinic keratosis?

Sun protection is the most important factor. Although we can change exposure from previous years, it is never too late to start practicing healthy sun protection behavior.Here are some helpful tips to protect yourself from the sun:
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Avoid direct sunlight in the middle of the day
  • Use sun protective clothing
  • A balanced diet including a low fat diet can reduce the number of actinic keratosis
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim
  • Use sunscreen on all exposed areas of SPF 30 or greater.
  • Avoid tanning beds

How are Actinic Keratosis treated?

Actinic keratosis are precancers that let untreated can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. Scientists do not fully know the exact percent that will turn into skin cancer but it is estimated to be about 1-5% per year will develop into a full squamous cell carcinoma. One could consider the presence of actinic keratosis to mean that a change in sun exposure and routine dermatology skin exams are now needed as their risk of developing a full skin cancer is high.

Here are a few ways at these precancerous are treated:

  • Freezing (cryosurgery)
  • Creams such as 5-fluorouracil
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Chemical peeling
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Vitamin supplements (nicotinamide 500 mg twice a day) and dietary modifications

When should I see someone about this?

If there are scaly or rough spots on your skin that don’t seem to heal, it is probably time to see someone. Left untreated these lesions can develop into a skin cancer. It is also important to note that the presence of these mean that you are likely to eventually develop squamous cell carcinoma.

If you have lesions that don’t seem to heal, call, text us, or make an appointment online today at

Golden Coast Dermatology, Skin Cancer, and Vein Center.

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