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Actinic Keratosis

A thick, scaly patch of skin that may become cancer. It usually forms on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, back of the hands, or chest. It is most common in people with fair skin.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that is not cancer, but sometimes changes into squamous cell carcinoma. It usually occurs in areas that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face, the back of the hands, and the lower lip. It looks like rough, red, pink, or brown scaly patches on the skin that may be flat or raised, or the lower lip cracks and peels and is not helped by lip balm or petroleum jelly....Read more about Actinic Keratosis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Ingenol Mebutate (Picato): Topical Treatment of Non-hyperkeratotic, Non-hypertrophic Actinic Keratosis in Adults [Internet]

The objective of this systematic review is to examine the beneficial and harmful effects of ingenol mebutate once daily for the topical treatment of non-hyperkeratotic, non-hypertrophic actinic keratosis (AK) for the face and scalp (0.015% gel, three-day treatment) and for the trunk and extremities (0.05% gel, two-day treatment) in adult patients.

Interventions for actinic keratoses

Actinic keratoses are a skin disease caused by long‐term sun exposure. Damaged skin shows small, red, rough, scaly, flat spots called actinic keratoses or lesions, which feel like patches of dry skin. Symptoms such as bleeding and pain can be associated with actinic keratoses. Moreover, actinic keratoses have the potential to develop into skin cancer if left untreated. The reasons for treatment may include cosmetic appearance, relief of symptoms, or prevention of skin cancer. Treatment can be directed either at individual lesions or to larger areas of the skin where several visible and less visible lesions occur (field‐directed treatment).

Comparison of topical 5-fluorouracil formulations in actinic keratosis treatment

The authors concluded that there was inadequate information to formulate a decision on the comparative efficacy of 0.5% and 5% 5-fluorouracil in patients with multiple actinic keratoses of the face and scalp. The synthesis suffered from significant limitations that provided a substantial threat to the overall reliability of the review.

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Summaries for consumers

Ingenol mebutate (Picato) for actinic keratosis: Overview

Ingenol mebutate (trade name: Picato) gel has been approved in Germany since November 2012 for the treatment of certain types of actinic keratosis.

Interventions for actinic keratoses

Actinic keratoses are a skin disease caused by long‐term sun exposure. Damaged skin shows small, red, rough, scaly, flat spots called actinic keratoses or lesions, which feel like patches of dry skin. Symptoms such as bleeding and pain can be associated with actinic keratoses. Moreover, actinic keratoses have the potential to develop into skin cancer if left untreated. The reasons for treatment may include cosmetic appearance, relief of symptoms, or prevention of skin cancer. Treatment can be directed either at individual lesions or to larger areas of the skin where several visible and less visible lesions occur (field‐directed treatment).

Skin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of skin cancer.

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Terms to know

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Skin cancer that forms in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) or in squamous cells, but not in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment).
Skin
The outer covering of the body that protects it from the environment.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Cancer that begins in squamous cells. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales, and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Squamous Cells
Flat cell that looks like a fish scale under a microscope. These cells cover inside and outside surfaces of the body. They are found in the tissues that form the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body (such as the bladder, kidney, and uterus), and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

More about Actinic Keratosis

Photo of an adult

Also called: Atrophic keratosis, Hyperplastic keratosis, Senile hyperkeratosis, Senile keratoma, Solar keratosis, Senile keratosis, AK, SK

Other terms to know: See all 4
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer, Skin, Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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