the sun exposure which causes AKs to develop probably occurred
many years ago, it's very important that young people (from their
teens to 20s) practice good sun protection. Parents should teach
their children from a young age proper protection methods from
the sun which are outlined below.
According to the American Association of Dermatology, however,
parents and young people don't seem to be getting the message.
A 2003 survey revealed the following:
are spending more time outdoors, are not adequately protecting
themselves with sunscreen, and still believe the appearance
of a tan is healthy. In addition, younger people are less
likely to use sunscreen on a regular basis and are more
likely to visit a tanning salon today than in the past."
These findings represent the need for greater
public understanding about the link between cumulative
ultraviolet (UV) radiation, AKs and skin cancer,
said dermatologist David J. Leffell, MD., Department
of Dermatology, Yale University, New Haven, CT. "Most
people are not aware of how damaging sun exposure is over
time, and that making simple lifestyle changes can protect
themselves and their families. Left untreated, AKs have
the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma,
the second leading cause of skin cancer deaths in the
United States." (2)
Under today's global climate changing conditions, this advice
should be an alarm to those who think tan skin is sexier than
healthy skin - because there is nothing sexy about actinic keratosis
or squamous cell carcinoma. Approximately 2,200 people die each
year as a result of non-melanoma skin cancers, which includes
SCC and more than 200,000 new SCC cases are diagnosed each year.
Now that you understand the importance of prevention, the AAD
recommends adopting a full-scale and redundant sun protection
program. This includes sun screen lotion with a Sun Protection
Factor (SPF) of at least 15, and reapplying sunscreen every two
hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days. The higher the SPF,
the better and keep in mind that any SPF under 15 offers very
little realistic protection.
The AAD also recommends "...wearing protective clothing
such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses,
avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when ultraviole"t
rays are strongest, and seeking shade whenever possible."
Treatment: The treatment plans and options available
for AKs are largely successful and depend on the age of the patient,
location of the AKs and amount of AKs present on the skin. These
treatment methods include:
- Cryosurgery is the most common treatment
method used for actinic keratosis. Cryosurgery is a fancy name
for the application of liquid nitrogen which actually "freezes"
the AK lesion -thereby causing it to flake, break up and fall
off to be replaced by new skin.
- Topical Chemotherapy with 5-fluorouracil
also causes the AKs to "fall off" after becoming inflammed
and reddened. New but tender skin will grow to replace the old
- Photodynamic therapy is a new method which
calls for the application a natural chemical that is later treated
by a device that "activates" the chemical to destroy
Other treatment and removal methods being used include: laser
resurfacing, chemical peels and cauterizing.
The American Association of Dermatology recommends that patients
treated for AKs should see their dermatologist once a year to
detect, diagnose and treat AKs that can possibly continue to occur.