Actinic keratosis, also known as solar kertatosis and senile keratosis is a premalignant skin condition. While not cancerous, if left unchecked, this condition may lead to cancer. Actinic keratosis affects millions of Americans and is becoming the most frequent skin condition seen dermatologists.
Generally, actinic keratoses range in size from two to six millimeters in diameter and are reddish in color. However, the color can range from skin-toned to a brownish color. These lesions are rough in texture and may have a yellowish or white top. Appearance of keratoses is generally accompanied by additional skin damage, including wrinkles, sallowness (unnaturally pale or yellowish), and superficial blood vessels associated with UV skin damage (1).
A keratosis which is larger in size and horned shaped is known as a cutaneous horn. These lesions may be nodular, crateriform (dipped in the center), or flat in shape, and are formed from compacted keratin(2). Keratin is a protein which is the main structural element in hair and nails. Formations of these lesions on the lip are referred to as actinic cheilitis and appear as a scaling on the lower lip that cracks and eventually dries. Whitish discoloration may accompany the thickened lip (3).
Actinic keratoses result from an overexposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Individuals with fair skin, weak immune systems, or history of heavy sun exposure and skin damage are at the greatest risk for developing actinic keratosis. These lesions appear on areas that receive the highest skin exposure, generally the face, ears, lip, neck, forearms, scale and hands. Most Americans develop keratoses after age 40. The risk of actinic keratosis for teenagers increases in areas with low ozone protection and heavy light exposure.
A study, conducted in 2009 by at the University of Queensland, demonstrated the therapeutic effects of ingenol-3-agnelate (the active constituent of the sap of the plant Euphorbia peplus). Patients were treated with 0.05 percent ingenol mebutate gel twice in a week. Of the participants, 71 percent of the patients were cleared of their actinic keratosis.