Repeated, prolonged sun exposure causes skin damage, especially in fair-skinned persons. Sun-damaged skin becomes
dry and wrinkled and may form rough, scaly spots called actinic keratoses. These rough spots remain on the skin even though the scale is picked off. Treatment of actinic
keratoses requires removal of the defective skin cells. New skin then forms from the deeper skin cells, which have escaped sun damage.
WHY TREAT ACTINIC KERATOSES?
Actinic keratoses are not skin cancers. Because they may sometimes turn cancerous, however, they should be removed.
Actinic keratoses can be removed surgically with scissors or a scraping instrument called a curette. Another way of
destroying actinic keratoses is to freeze them with liquid nitrogen. Freezing causes shedding of the sun-damaged skin. Sometimes a dermatologist
is not sure whether the growth is harmless. When this occurs the growth is superficially cut off and sent for microscopic analysis (biopsy).
Healing after removal takes two to three weeks, depending on the size and location of the keratosis. Hands and legs heal more slowly than the face. The skin's final appearance is usually
When there are many keratoses, a useful treatment is the application of 5-fluorouracil(5-FU). The medication is rubbed on
the keratoses for three to six weeks. 5-FU destroys sun-damaged skin cells. After one week the treated area starts to get raw. The applications
are continued until your physician determines that you have the needed results. Healing starts when the 5-FU is stopped.
Sun damage is permanent. Once sun damage has progressed to the point where actnic keratoses develope, new keratoses may
appear even without further sun exposure. You should avoid excessive sun exposure but don't go overboard and deprive yourself of the pleasure of
being outdoors. Reasonable sun protection whould be your aim.