Current management of actinic keratoses

Skin Therapy Lett. 2010 May;15(5):5-7.


An actinic keratosis (AK) is a pre-malignant cutaneous lesion that frequently manifests in sun-exposed areas of the skin as a small, rough, scaly erythematous papule. They are one of the most common presenting complaints for dermatologists. AKs should be treated due to their potential to progress into a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). There are numerous treatments available for managing AKs including those broadly categorized as destructive, topical field, and procedural field therapies. The topical field therapies include 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod, and diclofenac gel. Recently, imiquimod 3.75% (Zyclara TM) has been approved for the treatment AKs on the face and scalp. It is a reasonable alternative to imiquimod 5%, as the approved indication includes a larger surface area for treatment, shorter duration course, and the potential for less severe local skin reactions. There is no widely accepted algorithm for the treatment of AKs, as comparative data is unavailable between all approaches. Therapy choices are guided by efficacy, adverse effects, cosmetic results, and patient compliance.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Aminoquinolines / administration & dosage
  • Aminoquinolines / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control*
  • Diclofenac / administration & dosage
  • Diclofenac / therapeutic use
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Imiquimod
  • Keratosis, Actinic / complications
  • Keratosis, Actinic / physiopathology
  • Keratosis, Actinic / therapy*
  • Photochemotherapy / methods
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Aminoquinolines
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Diclofenac
  • Imiquimod
  • Fluorouracil