Actinic Keratosis (cont.)
Alan Rockoff, MD
Dr. Rockoff received his undergraduate degree from Yeshiva College with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His internship and two years of Pediatric residency were at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, followed by training in Dermatology at the combined residency program at Tufts and Boston Universities. Dr. Rockoff is certified by both the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is an actinic keratosis, and what does it look like?
- Who is at risk for an actinic keratosis?
- Where on the body do actinic keratoses typically occur?
- What is the significance of an actinic keratosis?
- How is an actinic keratosis diagnosed?
- How is an actinic keratosis treated?
- What happens after an actinic keratosis is treated?
- Actinic Keratosis At A Glance
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Where on the body do actinic keratoses typically occur?
Common locations for actinic keratoses are the face, especially the cheeks and bridge of the nose, scalp, back of the neck, upper chest, as well as the tops of the hands and forearms. Men are more likely to develop AKs on top of the ears, whereas women's hairstyles often protect this area. AKs, especially on the scalp and the backs of the hands, may be hypertrophic (thickened skin).
What is the significance of an actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratoses are precancerous (premalignant), which means they can develop into skin cancer. However, relatively few of them actually become cancers, a process that typically takes years. When a malignant change does occur, the cancer is called a squamous cell carcinoma. Although squamous cell skin cancers have the potential for metastasis (spreading to other areas), such cancers that arise in preexisting actinic keratoses have a low potential for such spread, and only do so once they have gone deeper and the skin and become invasive. Treating actinic keratoses at an early stage helps prevent this possibility.
When patients are diagnosed with this condition, they often say, "But I never go out in the sun!" The explanation is that it takes many years or even decades for these keratoses to develop. Typically, the predisposing sun exposure may have occurred many years ago. Short periods of sun exposure do not generally either produce AKs or transform them into skin cancers.
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