Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a precancerous growth on the skin that marks the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. It appears as a dry, scaly, rough patch on the skin after continuous exposure to sunlight. Sometimes this lesion resembles an animal horn and it is called “cutaneous horn.” It usually forms on the face, scalp, back of the hands, or chest and often affects people with fair complexions.

If left untreated, actinic keratosis may progress to squamous cell carcinoma. It is important to consult your dermatologist if you suspect actinic keratosis.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options approved for the treatment of actinic keratosis. Dr. Norton will evaluate and decide which treatment is best for you. Some of the techniques are listed below:


In this procedure, liquid nitrogen, is applied to the lesion. This causes freezing of the surface skin leading to peeling of the lesion.

Chemical peeling

One or more chemical solutions are applied to the skin, causing the precancerous lesions in the top layer to peel off.

Topical Chemotherapy or Immune Therapy

5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a topical chemotherapy agent that is applied twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks. This agent destroys the actinic keratosis cells, leading to initial irritation followed by clearance of the precancerous lesions

Diclofenac Sodium, also known by the brand name Solaraze, is a prescription medication that is applied to the affected area twice a day for 3 months

Imiquimod, also branded as Aldara or Zyclara, is an immunomodulator drug which acts by modifying the immune system to reject the UV-damaged cells in the skin. Depending on the strength of the cream, there are various treatment regimens from 4-16 weeks.

Photodynamic Therapy

A topical medication such as 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the lesion for 1-2 hours following which the area is subjected to radiation from a light source, often a blue light.


Considering the fact that actinic keratosis develops because of chronic exposure of skin to sunlight, the best way to prevent is to protect your skin from the harmful sun rays.

Sun-Protection Tips

  • Apply sunscreen cream liberally all over your exposed skin before going outdoors.
  • Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 and that protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • While in the sun, apply the sunscreen every two hours.
  • Wear protective clothing with long sleeves and pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses while going out.
  • Try avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight by staying out of sun between 10a.m and 4p.m when the sun rays are strongest.
Dermatology &

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