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Why You Shouldn't Wait to Treat Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a precancerous growth. In fact, it’s the most common precancerous growth that develops on sun-damaged skin. You should never wait to treat actinic keratosis because it can go on to develop into cancer.

What’s more, if you have one of these precancerous growths, you’re at risk for developing more in the future. 

What does actinic keratosis look like?

Actinic keratosis is an abnormal patch of skin that appears scaly or crusty and differs in color from the rest of the skin. It may appear red, dark, pink, or a combination of colors. Sometimes it’s raised and easy to feel because of its rough texture.

When you touch actinic keratosis, it may feel dry, and it can be associated with abnormal sensations such as burning, tingling, or pricking. In some cases, actinic keratosis may feel painful and look inflamed. 

Although uncommon, actinic keratosis may bleed or appear as an open sore. It’s possible for actinic keratosis to resolve and come back in the same spot.

Where does actinic keratosis develop?

Actinic keratosis often appears on areas of the skin commonly damaged by the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, or neck. Without sunscreen to protect against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, the skin can sustain damage that accumulates over time.

If you notice any abnormal patches of skin, it’s important to have them checked out by a skin specialist like Dr. Yvonne Hines at Hines Dermatology Associates in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Importance of seeking immediate treatment for actinic keratosis

Having actinic keratosis increases your risk of squamous cell carcinoma, the second-most common cause of skin cancer, which develops in the squamous cells. Most cases of squamous cell carcinoma develop from actinic keratosis.

Actinic keratosis is a sign of sun damage and puts you at increased skin cancer risk. If the condition is detected early, your dermatologist can treat actinic keratosis before it has the chance to develop into cancer.  

What should I do about actinic keratosis?

Seeing a dermatologist is the best step you can take in protecting yourself against skin cancer. Dr. Hines, the medical director at Hines Dermatology Associates, is a dermatologist and dermatopathologist. She can accurately diagnose your lesion and recommend appropriate treatment to make your skin healthy again.

To prevent further sun damage, it’s vital that you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen when outdoors, even on a cloudy day. UV rays are invisible to the naked eye, and while some days you may not notice the sun shining brightly, UV rays are still being emitted. UV-blocking eyewear and hats provide further protection.  

Conduct regular self-checks, preferably once a month, and contact Dr. Hines if you notice any unusual changes to your skin. Warning signs are spots that have uneven edges, unusual colors or abnormal texture.

Keep an eye out for spots that evolve in some way. This means growing larger, changing color, or bleeding.

Regular checkups with a specialist who is trained to identify and treat abnormal skin growths is a vital part of staying well. Early detection and treatment of actinic keratosis stops skin cancer before it starts, or before it has a chance to progress to squamous cell carcinoma.

It’s vital for anyone with a history of actinic keratosis to be under a dermatologist’s care.

For more information on how our expert team of dermatology specialists can help you address actinic keratosis, contact our Attleboro, Massachusetts, office at 508-222-1976 or book online to schedule an appointment. 

Another option is to send a message to Dr. Hines and the team here on our website.

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