Katherine Parkinson, MD
Katherine Parkinson, MD





Actinic Keratosis and Treatment Methods


Katherine Parkinson, MD
Parkinson Dermatology, SC

What is an Actinic Keratosis?

An Actinic Keratosis (AK) is a precancerous lesion which has the potential to turn into a form of skin cancer called a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).

It is important to be aware that an AK may “flake off” and then seem to disappear for a while only to reappear some time later. However, it is still important to have these lesions assessed by a dermatologist as left untreated, more AKs may form and grow deeper into the skin resulting in the development of skin cancer.

Who is at risk to develop AKs?

While anyone with repeated sun exposure has the potential to develop an AK, some factors make certain individuals more likely to develop AKs.

These factors include:

  • Fair Skin
  • Skin which freckles and/or burns when in the sun
  • Hair color which is naturally blond or red
  • Eyes that are blue, green or hazel
  • Men or women age 40 or older — AKs usually appear after age 40 which is long after a large amount of sun damage has occurred

How is an AK treated?

Once you have been clinically diagnosed as having AKs, treatment will be necessary. There are many forms of treatment available including:

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) by Blue Light

A topical solution (aminolevulinic acid HCI) is applied to the area, which makes the skin more sensitive to light. After approximately one hour of incubation time, the area is then exposed to the Blue Light. The light activates the solution destroying the AKs. As the skin heals, new, healthy skin appears.

PDT via Blue Light is a treatment option that is utilized when a patient has numerous AKs. Common areas to be treated by PDT include those which typically receive the most sun exposure: face, scalp, ears, arms, hands, and neck.
PDT offers patients a more effective treatment method by not only targeting the visible AKs but also those growing just below the surface allowing what physicians call “field treatment” or for example, treating the entire scalp which has been exposed to sun as opposed to simply treating the few visible spots.

While repeat treatments of PDT are usually necessary for optimal results, one of the largest benefits to the patient is that there is very little “down time” while healing; lasting approximately 5–7 days.


This method destroys visible AKs by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The treated skin often blisters and peels off within 10–14 days. As the skin heals, you may see a small white spot where the AK was. Cryotherapy is more likely to be utilized when patients have a small number of AKs to be treated.

Topical Therapies

Medications applied at home for approximately 2–4 weeks. Skin becomes red, swollen, crusted and irritated. Healing time can last up to an additional 2 weeks, after which time healthier skin will be revealed.

Imiquimod: helps to boost your immune system allowing your body to get rid of the precancerous cells.

Fluorouracil: a type of chemotherapy which inhibits and destroys the cancerous cells

While treatment methods are becoming more common, the best treatment method is PREVENTION. Some prevention tips include:
1. Avoiding the midday sun
2. Slather on a sunscreen with an SPF 50 or higher EVERY day, even on cloudy and/or winter days
3. Protect your lips with a lip balm containing an SPF 30 or higher
4. Protect your skin with clothing
5. Keep all appointments with your dermatologist to be evaluated for new skin developments

We are proud to be able to offer all of the above treatments to our patients; particularly PDT by Blue Light. Please call our office for evaluation and treatment. Recommended websites for additional Sun Protection tips include: www.parkinsondermatology.com, www.aad.org, www.skincancer.org.


Dr. Parkinson – Parkinson Dermatology, SC
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715-635-3766 | parkinsondermatology.com
Dr. Parkinson sees patients in Spooner.