What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is prevalent among adults. Roughly 58 million people in the United States have one or more AKs. AK may take years to develop. It forms on the sun-exposed areas of the face, lips, ears, scalp, and neck.
AKs tend to be feel rough and appear as scaly patches. The lesions can look pink, red, white, tan, or flesh-toned. Some AKs are raised and have a horn shape or bump. They can be tiny or an inch in diameter.
The main cause of AK is long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning equipment. UV rays can damage keratinocytes, which are the outer layer skin cells that provide texture.
Who is at Risk?
While anyone can develop AK, some people may have a higher risk if they:
- Have naturally red or blonde hair
- Are over the age of 40
- Have fair skin
- Have a weakened immune system
AKs are a concern because they are precancerous. Between 5% and 10% of them can turn into a form of skin cancer, which includes squamous cell carcinoma. Other effects of AKs include bleeding and a burning sensation. The lesions may cause itchiness and pain.
Fortunately, there are various ways you can manage AKs. Some topical treatments you can get are
- Diclofenac gel
One surgical option is cryosurgery. Your physician will apply liquid nitrogen to freeze and remove the damaged tissue. You also can get laser surgery to eliminate the AK lesion.
If you have numerous AKs on the face and scalp, photodynamic therapy can help eliminate lesions. The process involves applying a light-sensitizing topical agent followed by the use of blue or red light.
Recently, the FDA approved the new tirbanibulin 1% ointment for AK treatment. Also called Klisyri, it works as a microtubule inhibitor. The ointment should be applied directly to the treatment area once a day for five days.
Klisyri has proven to be an effective treatment. Two studies surveyed over 700 adults for over 50 days. 44-54% of patients reported a complete clearance of lesions.
As of right now, only adults are recommended to use Klisyri. More studies will be needed to determine if it is safe for those under 18 or expecting a child.
For more information about actinic keratosis, contact me today.