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Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, is one of the most commonly diagnosed and treated conditions. AK is a precancerous skin growth caused by the sun or indoor tanning. It often appears as a reddish, rough, scaly patch or spot that develops on skin that wasn’t protected from the sun over years—commonly on your face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp or neck.

More specifically, AKs are skin lesions that typically develop on the most exposed areas of the body and are considered an early warning sign of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer. According to the American Skin Association, “They appear as 1-4 mm red to brown spots that do not go away. They often have a rough and gritty texture and are often easier felt than seen. The skin surrounding the spots might appear red and irritated. These spots may sting, itch or bleed upon scratching. One cannot predict which AKs progress to squamous cell carcinoma, but lesions on the lips and ears have a higher likelihood of progression.”

The Treatment

The Art of Skin Dermatology treats Actinic Keratosis with the following medical skincare services:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing): A procedure that utilizes liquid nitrogen to treat benign and precancerous growths
  • Topical (cream): Fluorouracil works by causing the death of cells that grow fastest, such as abnormal skin cells, and is used to treat scaly overgrowths of skin, known as actinic or solar keratosis.
  • Electrodessication (cautery): A procedure that utilizes a fine wire to transmit heat through a cautery unit to treat benign growths, pre-cancers and superficial skin cancers

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

An estimated 1.8 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Also called “squamous cell cancer,” it’s the most common form of skin cancer, usually found on areas of the body damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. However, it may also develop in areas that get little or no sun like the mouth, genitals or anus due to injury or HPV (human papillomavirus) infection.

Whether from sunlight, tanning beds, injury or an HPV infection, squamous cell cancer can show up on the skin as a non-healing sore or area of rough skin. Typically not life-threatening, it tends to grow slowly. Without treatment, it can grow deep and injure nerves, blood vessels and more, and spread to other parts of the body, which can be fatal. Early detection can prevent squamous cell cancer from growing deep into the skin. In fact, when found early, it is highly treatable.

While anyone can develop squamous cell cancer, those with greater risk include people with light skin tone. Individuals who spend significant periods of time in the sun, use or have used tanning beds, or those who take medication to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ are also at greater risk for SCC.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of cancer and the most common form of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation cites an estimated 3.6 million cases of basal cell carcinoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a slightly transparent or pink bump or patch on your skin, though it may take other forms. It’s usually found on areas on the body damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. All skin types can develop basal cell carcinoma, however, people with light skin that rarely tan and tend to freckle, red or blond hair and light-colored eyes have a greater risk of developing it.

Before basal cell carcinoma develops, people with lighter skin tones often notice signs of sun damage on their skin, such as age spots, patches or discolored skin and deep wrinkles. A slowly growing, non-healing spot that sometimes bleeds can also be a sign of basal cell carcinoma. Early detection is key as most basal cell carcinomas can be treated and cured if treated promptly.

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