There are several options available for treating AK. Which one is best will depend on factors such as the size and location of the lesions, the number of lesions, and the person's overall health.
Cryotherapy uses a very cold substance, like liquid nitrogen, to freeze and kill the skin cells that make up the AK lesion. The liquid nitrogen is applied as a spray or with a swab. This treatment method is best for a small number of lesions. Topical medications (see below) may be used prior to cryotherapy to improve results.
Excision is surgical removal of the lesion using a sharp blade.
Electrodessication and curettage dries out the AK cells with an electric current and then scrapes them out using a curette (a sharp instrument). These procedures require a local anesthetic. Like cryotherapy, these are not practical for large numbers of lesions.
Topical medications (medications that are applied to the skin) can be used to treat actinic keratoses and superficial basal cell carcinoma (sBCC). Topical medications include 5-fluorouracil* (also known as fluorouracil or 5-FU) and imiquimod.
- 5-FU belongs to the group of medications known as topical antineoplastics. It works by interfering with cancer cell growth. It is applied to the skin in a thin layer and is then covered. The treatment is repeated daily over several weeks. This method is good for treating large areas of skin. Women who are pregnant should not use 5-FU.
- Imiquimod is another topical medication for the treatment of AK. It belongs to a group of medications called immune response modifiers. This type of medication works by stimulating the immune system to produce substances that fight against the cancer. The treatment is applied to the skin twice a week for 16 weeks. This method is good for treating larger areas of skin.
- Ingenol mebutate is another topical medication for the treatment of AK. It works by killing skin cells and by causing inflammation where it is applied. The treatment is applied to the skin once daily for 2–3 days depending on the location of the AK.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses light and a light-sensitizing medication to kill AK skin cells. The medication is applied to the skin and is absorbed by the abnormal AK cells more than the normal surrounding cells. The skin is then exposed to a specific colour of light that activates the medication and kills the cells. PDT is good for treating large areas of skin with many AK lesions.
Other possible treatments include:
- chemical peels
- laser treatment
- other topical medications (e.g., diclofenac)
The best way to prevent AK is to avoid overexposure to the sun. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, applied one-half hour before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours. Wear a hat and protective clothing to help protect your skin from the sun's UV rays. Remember to protect children as well. Try to stay out of the sun during peak hours (11 am to 4 pm). It's important to make sure your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2017. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/condition/getcondition/Actinic-Keratosis