Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition many people encounter, particularly as they age. It is generally considered as a warning sign to potential skin problems that might occur in the future. Understanding what actinic keratoses (AKs) are and how they can be treated is important in maintaining healthy skin. 

At SCCSNJ, we help you manage this skin condition effectively. Through expert dermatology treatments and guidance, we ensure our clients get the needed care and prevention methods for actinic keratosis.

What Is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that develops due to prolonged exposure to the sun or artificial sources of ultraviolet (UV) rays. It usually appears in adults over 40 years, but it can occur in younger patients too, especially if they have a history of frequent sun exposure. 

The condition is common and can be managed effectively when detected early. If left unattended, however, it could potentially lead to skin cancer. Recognizing and treating actinic keratosis is vital to prevent it from progressing.

What Does Actinic Keratosis Look Like?

Actinic keratosis appears as scaly or bumpy patches on the skin. These patches often have a rough texture similar to sandpaper. They develop in areas frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the backs of hands, face, ears, lower arms, or bald scalps. The color of these patches may either blend with the patient’s skin tone or appear slightly brown or yellow. 


Importantly, these rough patches should not hurt or feel tender. If they do, it is advisable to consult a dermatology specialist immediately, as it might indicate the progression to skin cancer. At SCCSNJ, we can help you diagnose these patches and recommend appropriate treatment strategies.

Actinic Keratosis Symptoms

When you have actinic keratosis, you might notice that the affected areas feel dry or rough. These patches or bumps are often easily felt when you run your fingers over your skin. Apart from the rough, scaly patches, you might observe areas of dry or crusty skin. Some patients might experience itching or burning in the affected areas. 

Sometimes, these patches might disappear only to reappear after a few months. The key to managing this condition is to take prompt action as soon as you notice these symptoms, or if you notice tenderness or pain. Regular visits to a dermatologist can help in monitoring the symptoms and taking necessary steps for treatment or management.

Our Actinic Keratosis Treatments

We offer a range of general dermatology treatments to help you deal with actinic keratosis effectively. These aim to remove the damaged skin cells and prevent them from developing into cancerous cells. Dr. Lombardi and the expert dermatology team at SCCSNJ guide clients through the treatment options to determine the best approach.

Cryotherapy for Actinic Keratosis

Cryotherapy is a popular dermatology treatment option for actinic keratosis. This method involves applying liquid nitrogen to the affected areas to freeze the abnormal cells. This method is highly effective, succeeding 90–95% of the time. It is a quick procedure and the risk of scarring is minimal. Many patients prefer this treatment due to its efficiency and quick results.

Actinic Keratosis Cream: Topical Prescription

Topical prescriptions are another viable treatment option. There are several creams available that have been approved for treating actinic keratosis. These creams work by encouraging the destruction of abnormal cells at the application site, helping to get rid of the actinic keratoses. 

Different creams have varying effects. Some might cause irritation or discomfort, while others are milder. Their effectiveness also varies, with some creams showing results quickly while others may take up to 60–90 days to show visible improvement.

Vitamin Supplementation

In cases where actinic keratosis occurs frequently, adding a vitamin supplement to your routine can be beneficial. Specifically, vitamin B3 in the form of nicotinamide has shown potential in reducing the recurrence of actinic keratosis and skin cancers. It’s crucial to note that only nicotinamide has this effect; other forms of vitamin B3 do not offer the same benefits.

Is Actinic Keratosis Cancerous?

Actinic keratosis is a precancerous condition, which means it can develop into skin cancer if not addressed timely. Not all cases progress to cancer, but it serves as a warning signal that your skin has undergone significant damage due to sun exposure. 

At SCCSNJ, we emphasize early intervention to prevent any possible progression to skin cancer. Our dermatology experts offer guidance and treatment options to help manage the condition effectively.

How Long Does It Take for Actinic Keratosis to Become Cancerous?

The time it takes for actinic keratosis to turn cancerous can vary widely. It is not easy to pinpoint a specific timeframe, as it depends on various factors including individual health conditions, the extent of sun exposure, and the patient’s immune system response. 

In some cases, it might take several years for the patches to evolve into a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. This uncertainty makes it even more critical to address the condition immediately to prevent potential progression.

Actinic Keratosis Treatment Aftercare

After receiving treatment for actinic keratosis, taking proper skin care is essential. It includes protecting your skin from further sun damage by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sunlight hours. Regular follow-ups with your dermatologist will help in monitoring your skin’s condition and taking necessary actions if any new lesions appear.

At SCCSNJ, we are committed to providing comprehensive care for patients dealing with actinic keratosis. Our expert dermatology team, led by Dr. Lombardi, can assist you in managing this condition effectively. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take a step towards healthier skin.


  • How much does actinic keratosis treatment cost?
    The cost of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the type of treatment chosen. It is best to consult with your healthcare provider or dermatology practice for precise cost estimates.
  • Should you see a dermatologist for actinic keratosis?
    Yes, it is highly recommended to see a dermatologist if you suspect you have actinic keratosis. Early detection and management can prevent potential progression to skin cancer.
  • What is the fastest way to get rid of actinic keratosis?
    Cryotherapy is generally considered the quickest way to treat actinic keratosis, and it also has a high success rate. It involves freezing the affected cells, which then peel off, often in a single session.
  • Does actinic keratosis go away?
    Actinic keratosis may temporarily disappear but can recur. It is not advisable to leave it untreated, considering its potential to progress to skin cancer. Seeking timely treatment is essential.