Why Actinic Keratosis Require Prompt Treatment to Prevent Skin Cancers

Our dermatologist, Dr. Barry Ginsburg, has been performing advanced skin cancer treatments (such as Mohs) for more than 20 years. He has considerable experience accurately detecting and successfully treating skin cancers. However, it cannot be overstated that these conditions are highly preventable with proper sun protection and products, such as broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen. Dr. Ginsburg partners with patients on such preventive measures and urges skin cancer screenings at Ginsburg Dermatology Center in Birmingham, Alabama, on at least an annual basis. Dr. Ginsburg will look for anomalies during these screenings, including Actinic Keratosis (AKs).

AKs, explained 

Actinic Keratoses take on a lot of different symptoms and characteristics. Notably, they tend to look like skin cancers. And indeed, they can turn into skin cancers without appropriate and prompt treatment. These are “precancerous” lesions. Additionally, AKs may resemble otherwise harmless, benign spots – such as “age spots” or brown hyperpigmentation and moles. These features underscore the need for Dr. Ginsburg to evaluate your skin and accurately diagnose these spots. Precise diagnostics inform effective treatment methods. 

If you notice any of the following signs, contact us! We’ll want to get you into a healthy habit of ongoing professional skin checks. 

  • Rough, sandpaper-like patches
  • Scaly, pimple-like bumps 
  • Red, pink, or flesh-colored raised areas
  • Chronically chapped lips 
  • Loss of lip color
  • Horn-like protrusions

Additionally, AKs may feel itchy, produce burning or stinging sensations, bleed, and be tender upon touch. Due to their being caused by unprotected exposure to UV light from sunbathing or the use of tanning beds, those with fair skin and light eyes tend to be at greater risk of developing them. They also arise in areas that are more frequently exposed to sunlight or artificial UV light sources, such as the face, hands, neck, lips, and ears. Bald or balding individuals may also develop AKs on their scalps. It’s estimated that most squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) started as AKs. Without treatment, SCCs can be disfiguring and invasive. 

If we determine that your spots are indeed AKs, Dr. Ginsburg may recommend their removal with methods such as:

  • Cryotherapy to “freeze off” the AK
  • Techniques to scrape off thicker AKs from the skin 
  • Light-based phototherapy to destroy AKs and promote new, healthy skin
  • Laser or chemical resurfacing that lift the damaged skin layer

We may also discuss medications that can be applied topically from the comfort of home. It is critical to get into a healthy routine of consistently using appropriate sunscreen products, even on cloudy or overcast days. Check your skin regularly for new spots or changes to existing spots and, as always, maintain regular skin screenings at our center. Schedule your appointment by calling us at (205) 209-4780.