Orlando Sun Damaged Skin Treatment, Actinic Keratosis
This patient information and photograph on Actinic Keratosis (Precancers) is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? There is a lot of sun here in Florida. Many people come to us for Orlando sun damaged skin. Actinic keratoses are common skin growths that occur on sun damaged skin. In general terms these are known as "sun damage spots" or "precancers ". They are red scaly patches often sensitive to touch that occur most frequently on sun exposed areas such as the face, scalp, ears, neck, hands and arms. Sometimes they may have some brown pigment and may be difficult to tell from the more harmless lentigo (liver spots). Actinic keratoses typically occur in adults over the age of thirty, although they can occur in younger individuals who have had a great deal of sun exposure. The biggest concern with actinic keratosis is their potential for turning into squamous cell skin cancer.
What causes it? Actinic keratoses are causes by ultraviolet radiation from years of sun exposure. This does not mean recent sun exposure, but total lifetime exposure. Even if you never were out in the sun much, decades of going to the mailbox, hanging laundry, etc... all tally up for a significant amount of sun exposure. The effects of your sun exposure are cumulative. Therefore, the sun you got when you were five years old still has some impact on your skin today. People with fair skin and light colored eyes tend to get actinic keratoses earlier in life than darker skinned individuals.
Regular use of sunscreen has been shown to decrease risk for the development of squamous cell skin cancer. My personal recommendation is a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher Sunscreen Info./Ordering. For more skin care in the sun recommendations click here sun skin care.
Is it dangerous? Yes and No. These are "precancers". They are not cancers, but they have the potential to turn into skin cancer. If treatment is neglected there is a good chance one or more of these will turn into skin cancer.
Can it be cured? Yes. I have a variety of techniques I use to treat these growths. I will try to choose a method which has the best results depending on the number, size, and location. Some may be stubborn and require more than one treatment. Others may need to be biopsied and examined under a microscope to make sure they are not turning into cancer.
Will it spread? You will likely get more with time. These will also need treatment. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of regular periodic skin exams, by a dermatologist, in individuals prone to actinic keratoses. Following a good sun protection plan may help prevent or slow the development of these growths.
Is it contagious? It is not contagious and you cannot "catch" it from anyone.