Treating Actinic Keratoses

If you have found that you have more than one instance of actinic keratosis on your body, you are absolutely not alone. Actinic keratoses tend to show up in groups, and most people will have more than one of them on the surface of their skin. These spots often begin as rough, scaly patches on the skin, which can sometimes be sore or tender when rubbed or touched. Given that actinic keratoses are considered precancerous lesions, we recommend coming in for an examination if you suspect you might have one or more on your body. The talented team here at Certified Dermatology can help you find relief from issues like actinic keratoses, so you can enjoy healthy skin and lasting peace of mind. To learn more, reach out to a Certified Dermatology location that is convenient for you and speak with a member of our team to set up your initial appointment today.

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Understanding This Condition

If left untreated, a small percentage of actinic keratoses will progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Patients that develop actinic keratoses will often develop multiple over a lifetime.  For these reasons, we recommend seeking dermatological attention as soon as you suspect that you may be dealing with this issue. This gives us the ability to manage and treat your actinic keratoses before they progress to the more aggressive squamous cell carcinoma.

Although they can occur on any sun-damaged area of the skin, Actinic Keratoses are most commonly seen on the: 

  • Scalp
  • Face
  • Ears
  • Back of the neck
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Lower legs 

Risk Factors for Actinic Keratosis

Risk factors for Actinic Keratoses are similar to those associated with basal and squamous cell carcinoma. 

These risk factors include: 

  • Sun exposure
  • Sunburns
  • Fair skin
  • Genetics

Protecting Yourself from Actinic Keratoses

The best protection against developing actinic keratosis is education! Wearing sunscreen, protecting your little ones, avoiding indoor tanning, and being as careful as possible when playing or working outdoors is your best defense against developing any form of skin cancer.

Here are some additional strategies that can keep you protected from issues like actinic keratosis:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Re-apply sunscreen every 60 to 90 minutes while in the sun.
  • Avoid peak hours for sun exposure, specifically between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing.
  • Do not burn!
  • Avoid indoor tanning.
  • Examine your skin once a month for new or changing spots.
  • Have a yearly skin examination to ensure your skin is in good health.
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Available Treatment Options

Treatment options for Actinic Keratoses include removing or destroying the lesions and/or topical therapies to treat the sun-damaged skin. When you visit Certified Dermatology, you’ll work with a highly experienced skin care professional in a welcoming and intimate office setting. We’ll get to know your issues, learn about your skin’s unique properties, and work with you to land on the treatment option that is right for you and your needs.


Cryotherapy essentially involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze away your actinic keratoses. This can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it is well tolerated by most patients. It is an excellent method because it works well and does not usually cause much scarring. Freezing causes the lesions to blister, and over time they fall off as the skin heals. Before your appointment, we’ll provide you with a thorough set of aftercare instructions.

Topical Therapy

Actinic keratoses can be effectively treated by prescribed topical creams. One cream works as topical chemotherapy (5-fluorouracil), while another works to stimulate the body’s immune system (imiquimod) and fight pre-cancerous lesions. A third cream, Picato, works by causing damaged cells to die off in the skin. All of these work very well but can often lead to side effects of redness, crusting, and scabbing in the area they are applied.

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