Now that we are in the heart of these cold winter months, you may be struggling with dry skin. Moisturizing the skin daily is a good place to start, but if there are persistent, rough, pink, scaly spots that never seem to completely go away or tend to reappear in the same location than this may be a sign of precancerous condition called actinic keratoses (AKs). Actinic keratoses are a sign of chronic sun damage that have the potential to turn into a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. They most commonly occur in sun-exposed areas including the face, arms, legs, chest, and scalp (especially if the hair thinning). Individuals at higher risk of developing AKs include the elderly, those with lighter skin types and those with a history of chronic sun exposure.
How are these areas treated?
If there is only an isolated spot, or a few focal areas than liquid nitrogen or cryotherapy is the best option. This causes the area to scab or blister and typically heals within 1-2 weeks. If there are several lesions present, then certain creams such as 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod, or Picato may be recommended. These creams treat the existing lesions and may help to prevent the development of new lesions in the future. Side effects of the creams including redness, crusting, edema and blistering can occur. Photodynamic therapy is another great option if there are many lesions to treat on the scalp or face. This treatment involves application of a solution called levulan for 1-2 hours followed by exposure to a light source such as red light, blue light or IPL.
If you are concerned you may have developed one of these spots that does not improve with moisturizing, we would be happy to schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns.