Actinic Keratosis Treatment

Cryotherapy and Topical Therapy

dermatologist looking at actinic keratosis on a patient's shoulder

Solar, or actinic keratosis are pre-cancerous growths that are very common, especially in fair-skinned individuals who have had a lot of cumulative sun exposure. Actinic keratosis are rough, sandpaper-like, slightly raised growths ranging in color from pink, red, and brown, and about 1 mm to 1 cm in diameter. They are found on the sun-exposed areas of the body, most often in older people. The face, ears, bald scalp, back of the hands, and the shins are common sites, and can be the first step on the road to squamous cell carcinoma. 10 to 20 percent of untreated actinic keratosis advance to squamous cell carcinoma, and it’s estimated that 40 to 60 percent of squamous cell carcinoma begin as untreated actinic keratosis.

Prevention of Actinic Keratosis

This type of cancer is the result of a lifetime of sun exposure. The use of sunscreen, protective clothing, and hats with a broad brim can help prevent future diagnoses. It is never too late to start wearing sunscreen daily.

Actinic Cheilitis—Actinic Keratosis on the Lower Lip

This form of actinic keratosis occurs most often on the lower lip (which gets more sun than the upper lip). The lower lip may become dry, cracked, scaly, pale, or white. If not treated promptly, actinic cheilitis can lead to squamous cell carcinoma on the lip which may behave more aggressively because it has arisen on a mucous membrane.

actinic keratoses symptoms images

How Actinic Keratosis is Treated

Cryotherapy wart removal


Liquid nitrogen is applied with a Q-tip or spray canister to the specific area. Though it stings briefly, no anesthesia is required.

Topical Therapy

5-Fluorouracil cream (5-FU) is a commonly-used topical therapy that is a chemotherapy agent, but has virtually no internal effects when used topically. Learn More About 5-Fluorouracil Cream

Imiquimod 5% or 3.75% cream stimulates the immune system to destroy cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. Learn More About Imiquimod Cream

Diclofenac gel is a well-tolerated treatment that is used for a few months. Learn More About Diclofenac Gel

Ingenol mebutate gel has great results and only needs to be used for a few days. Learn More About Ingenol Mebutate Gel

Los Angeles Dermatologist, Dr. Brian P. Mekelburg, has the expertise to treat your actinic keratosis. When caught in the early stages, all types of skin cancers are treatable and most likely curable. If you have any skin concerns, don’t wait; contact us today to set up an appointment.

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