Actinic Keratoses (Precancers)

Actinic keratoses are skin lesions that represent a disease process likely to lead to a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. All disciplines uniformly agree that excessive ultraviolet exposure (i.e. sunlight) is the main risk factor for developing these pre-cancerous lesions especially in the setting of fair skin and immune system suppression. Therefore, wise clinicians also regard the presence of an actinic keratosis as a marker for severely sun damaged skin. This notion is important because very often these lesions occur in areas of the skin that may appear normal and the presence of an actinic keratosis is the only clue to the high likelihood of cancerous transformation.

As pre-cancers, actinic keratoses are highly metabolic skin lesions and demonstrate high levels of cell division - all consistent with increased vata dosha in the skin. In TCM the effects of ultraviolet radiation translate to Qi and blood imbalance leading to an array of damaging processes. The main strategy for treating actinic keratoses is to destroy the lesions. In a great example of integrative dermatology the alternative disciplines offer augmentative approaches to help prevent actinic keratosis. Read below to find out more about actinic keratoses and read here of ways to protect yourself from the damaging sun rays.

Medical Perspectives

Western image

Western

Actinic keratoses, also known as solar keratoses, are rough lesions that develop as a result of chronic sun overexposure. The Western approach to actinic keratoses involves destruction of the lesions either through the use local treatment or the use of field therapy. 

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Naturopathy image

Naturopathy

Actinic Keratoses (AKs) are crusty, scaly growths that are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.[1] AKs can progress to squamous cell carcinoma,[2] and naturopathic doctors will work with their patient to try to prevent the development of these precancers. Dietary changes along with possible supplementation may be needed as part of the treatment plan. Sun protection is an important part of the approach as well. 

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Traditional Chinese image

Traditional Chinese

While actinic keratosis is not cancerous, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lesions associated with this condition may be considered to be forms of abnormal skin growths or tumors. They are caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation leading to a disharmony of Qi and blood, the invasion of toxic pathogens, an accumulation of pathogenic heat, dampness and phlegm, or a deficiency of vital organ systems.[1] 

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