Actinic keratoses (AKs) appear as rough, pink, scaly bumps on the skin. They are precancerous growths that have a small chance of turning into a squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated. AKs are caused by UV exposure and are most common on sun exposed skin such as the face, scalp, ears, and back of the hands and arms. They are found more frequently in people with fair skin, hair and eyes, and in those with history of extensive sun exposure.
There are many different types of treatment for AKs. Your dermatologist may choose to treat your AKs with cryotherapy, also known as “freezing”. Cryotherapy is a great option for spot treatment. If you have more numerous AKs, you may require a field treatment (something that will treat an entire area of skin). 5-fluorouracil (Efudex) and imiquimod (Aldara) are examples of creams that may be prescribed to treat an area of skin such as the face or chest.
Another option for field treatment is photodynamic therapy. Photodynamic therapy uses a photosensitizing agent that is taken up by precancerous cells. A light source is then used to activate the photosensitizing agent, resulting in elimination of the precancerous cells.
At Core Dermatology we offer red light therapy which is a type of photodynamic therapy. During red light therapy, the photosensitizing agent Ameluz (aminolevulinic acid hydrochloride) 10% gel is applied to the skin. After an incubation period, during which the gel is allowed to sit on the skin for a given period of time, a red light is used to activate the Ameluz. The end result is clearance of precancerous cells. Most patients experience clearance of the majority of their AKs. A second treatment may be needed if AKs remain.