As many as 58 million Americans have an actinic keratosis (AK), a rough patch on the skin that develops after years of sun exposure. Although most AKs remain benign, a small percentage will progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Because there’s no way to know which AKs will become cancerous, early diagnosis and treatment are important. The renowned team of dermatologists at Easton Dermatology Associates in Easton, Maryland, use photodynamic therapy to stop AKs and other pre-cancerous growths before they can progress. They serve patients on the Delmarva Peninsula and the surrounding area.
Also known as a solar keratosis or a sun spot, an actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly patch on your skin that develops after years of exposure to ultraviolet light. AKs are most common on the places of your body that get the most sun exposure, including your face, scalp, neck, lips, ears, hands, and forearms.
AKs can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a quarter, and range in color from skin-toned to pink to reddish brown. They usually first show up in people over the age of 40 and take years to develop, enlarging slowly and often causing no symptoms other than their appearance.
Although anyone can develop AKs, light-skinned people living in sunny climates are most likely to get them. Because AKs are the result of cumulative sun exposure, simply spending short amounts of time outside getting the mail, walking the dog, or playing your favorite sport can add up to a significant amount lifetime exposure. Factors that increase your risk of developing AKs include:
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that roughly 60% of those who are most at risk of developing AKs will get at least one in their lifetime.
Left untreated, about 10% of AKs will progress to squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, within about two years. If they’re diagnosed and treated early, however, almost all AKs can be removed before potentially becoming cancerous.
The expert team of dermatologists at Easton Dermatology Associates uses photodynamic therapy (PDT) to destroy AK cells before they have a chance to progress. The state-of-the-art treatment involves the application of a topical solution called aminolevulinic acid (ALA), which is absorbed by the AK cells and makes them sensitive to light.
After an hour-long incubation period, the topical solution is wiped off and the AK cells are exposed to the blue PDT light for about 17 minutes. Without affecting any healthy tissues, this causes the destruction of the AK cells.
PDT is particularly useful for treating skin areas with extensive sun damage and multiple AKs, such as the scalp, face, or forearms.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, we accept most major insurance plans. Here is a list of some of the plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.