Having actinic keratosis can easily lead to skin cancer when left unchecked and untreated. This precancer commonly forms on skin that has been damaged by the continuous exposure of ultraviolet rays. UV rays fall abundantly from the sun and are even emitted by tanning beds.
Actinic keratosis is just the beginning. These dry and crust patches of skin can develop into more patches. To keep actinic keratosis from growing and becoming cancerous, we’ll need to explore the best way to minimize that risk.
As mentioned, it’s the harmful UV rays from the sun that cause actinic keratosis to develop. However, wearing sunscreen can reduce the amount of UV radiation that penetrates the skin. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that you wear sunscreen before stepping out everytime you leave during the day. A good rule of thumb is to apply sunscreen on all exposed parts of your body 15 minutes before heading out.
Unfortunately, wearing sunscreen isn’t enough to protect your skin from the radiation. Sunscreen can only filter out some of the rays. This means that even when you go out with sunscreen on, you’re still absorbing a bit of radiation and you’re still at risk of developing actinic keratosis. You can minimize the risk even further by limiting the amount of time you spend under the sun. If you can stay in on a hot day, do so. If you do find yourself outside, avoid being in direct sunlight and find plenty of shade.
The good thing about actinic keratosis is that it is quite visible. Appearing as rough, scaly patches on the skin. These patches are slow growing so they are relatively easy enough to spot. This is exactly why an annual screening is important. It’ll be easy for a dermatologist to spot minor changes over time. Keep in mind that early detection is essential. Actinic keratosis is a form of precancer so if detected early, it can be treated in time. But if left untreated, it may evolve into skin cancer.
Let’s set the record straight, a tanning bed does not emit as much ultraviolet radiation as the sun. With that being said, tanning beds can still be considered unsafe. Any exposure to UV radiation is damaging, even if the only result of the damage you see is tan skin. That tan skin is the result of radiated skin cells. Enough of this exposure can lead to actinic keratosis. Even more exposure can further radiate cells and cause mutation of DNA. This mutation is what opens the door for the development of cancer cells.
Remember, actinic keratosis and skin cancer develops when the skin absorbs too many UV rays. Believe it or not, long sleeves, long pants, and hats can do a good job of filtering out some of that radiation. It may seem crazy to wear long clothes on a warm, sunny day, but such a simple change can go a long way in reducing your risk of getting actinic keratosis and skin cancer.
If you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, our experts at The Dermatology Group are here to offer actinic keratosis and skin cancer treatment as well as offer you advice and additional resources. Give us a call today!