Actinic keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, is considered "pre-cancerous." It has the potential to turn into a common type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Perhaps 10% of actinic keratoses progress into squamous cell carcinoma if allowed to persist untreated over the course of several years. In transplant patients, actinic keratoses is likely to have an even higher rate of progression into a squamous cell carcinoma.
They appear as pink to red areas on the skin that often have a rough, sharp scale, similar to the feel of sand paper. They may be more easily felt than seen. Occasionally they may have a sensation of a pinprick or a burn when exposed to the sun or with any touch or pressure. They generally appear on skin that has been exposed to the sun such as the scalp, face, forearms, and back of hands.
Treatment of actinic keratoses may consist of: liquid nitrogen, 5-fluorouracil topical cream, imiquimod topical cream, photodynamic therapy, or curettage. Treatment recommendations depend on the individual patient characteristics and extent or number of actinic keratoses present.
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