Video Production by Josh Melendez

Learn what an actinic keratosis is and what they mean regarding your health.

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Video Transcript:

So you’ve been diagnosed with an actinic keratosis by your local dermatologist and there are a lot of different treatment options for actinic keratosis, but the first thing we need to do is educate you on what actinic keratosis actually is.

So to use our little model here, an actinic keratosis is a collection of atypical cells called keratinocytes, that are in the top portion of your skin or the epidermis. Now by definition an actinic keratosis does not have atypical keratinocytes that go all the way through the surface of the epidermis. They’re just partial thickness, atypical cells. Once those atypical cells become full thickness, so all the way through the epidermis, then we call it a squamous cell cancer in situ or in the surface.

So these actinic keratosis or these atypical keratinocytes, they have about a 10% chance of turning into a squamous cell cancer over about ten years. So if you just have one or two of these actinic keratosis in an area like your face, then we usually use a treatment modality called liquid nitrogen, or cryosurgery. And you can see the video down below on what that entails.

Now, when you have lots of actinic keratosis in an area, then we become more and more concerned for your chances of developing a squamous cell cancer, or other types of cancer in that area over the future. So when you have lots of these pre-cancers or these actinic keratosis in an area we oftentimes recommend a treatment for the entire area, to help decrease the risk of you growing skin cancers in that area, in the future. And down below you’ll see some links for different areas where we treat the entire field.

Now actinic keratosis, just like non-melanoma skin cancers, as well as melanoma skin cancers, are the result of long-term exposure to ultraviolet light, as well as your own individual mix of how you respond to that light. In other words, do you get burned very easily or not so easily. Have you spent a lifetime in the sun or tanning beds, or have very little exposure. And the more of these pre-cancers you get, the more concerned we are that you’ll develop not only more pre-cancers in the future, but also more cancers.

So, please look at the prevention videos that are linked down below, so you can get an idea of how to prevent these. Please look at the treatment videos down below, so that when your local dermatologist recommends a treatment for you, you understand why they’re recommending what they are, and now you are educated.

Because fact is, an educated patient is the best patient.

About the author

Dr. Anderson with Doctors Quarterly Magazine - Cropped
Dr. Reagan Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. He serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology and is actively involved in patient and healthcare provider education on dermatology conditions and treatment.

Colorado Dermatology Institute
8580 Scarborough Drive / 1220 Lake Plaza Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado