Actinic Keratosis Specialist

Douglas Swinehart, MD

Dermatologist located in Fresno, CA

An actinic keratosis often seems like nothing more than a dry, scaly patch of skin, yet it is a precancerous lesion that can turn into squamous cell carcinoma. Dr. Douglas Swinehart practices dermatology in Fresno, California, and offers patients advanced, effective, and non-invasive treatment of precancerous and cancerous lesions when possible.

Actinic Keratosis Q & A

What are actinic keratoses?

Actinic keratoses (AK’s) develop from too much-unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light, whether from natural sunlight or tanning beds. They appear as dry, scaly patches on your skin. They are usually seen in areas that get a lot of sun exposure, such as your face, lips, ears, hands, forearms, scalp and neck.

Actinic keratosis can be problematic to identify because the patches often periodically clear up, then reappear again, making it easy to believe they’re a common rash or skin irritation rather than a precancerous lesion.

The danger of actinic keratoses is that they are precancerous. These seemingly innocent spots on your skin can turn into squamous cell carcinoma. For that reason, it’s important to watch for actinic keratoses and get them treated early before they become a more serious problem.

What are the signs and risk factors for actinic keratoses?

The primary symptoms of actinic keratoses are subtle changes in your skin that happen gradually because it takes years of sun exposure for the lesions to develop. As a result, they’re more common in adults older than 40 years. Once they appear, you’ll seldom have just one; multiple spots will appear. Some of the symptoms associated with actinic keratoses include:

  • Rough, dry or scaly patches of skin
  • Less than 1 inch in diameter
  • Flat or slightly raised patch or bump
  • Pink, red or brown
  • Possibly itching or burning

Anyone can develop actinic keratoses, but you’re at a higher risk if you’ve spent years in the sun or live in a warm, sunny climate where you’re often exposed to ultraviolet light even if you’re not purposefully sunbathing. People who have fair skin, blue eyes, and red or blond hair are also more susceptible to sun damage leading to actinic keratoses.

How does Dr. Swinehart treat actinic keratoses?

A visual inspection from experienced eyes can be all that’s needed to diagnosis an actinic keratosis, but Dr. Swinehart will perform a biopsy if the skin lesions look like they’ve progressed to become cancerous. Noncancerous actinic keratoses can be treated with a variety of topical creams containing prescription drugs, such as Aldara and Efudex. Dr. Swinehart may also use cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen, which freezes the lesions. He may also use a technique known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), a treatment that uses a combination of medication and light to eliminate cancer cells.


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Insurances Accepted

Dr. Swinehart accepts most major insurance plans. Please contact our office directly with any questions regarding coverage prior to your office visit or if you do not see your insurance provider listed. Please bring your insurance card with you to your appointment.

Anthem Blue Cross
Banker's Life
Blue Shield of California
Capital Health Plan
Delta Health Systems
HealthComp, Inc.