Actinic keratosis is currently believed to be an early stage in the evolution of squamous cell carcinoma. Active and intensive treatment of actinic keratosis may prevent the formation of invasive squamous cell carcinoma and potential metastases. While destructive methods of treatment of actinic keratosis remain the gold standard for the eradication of visible and palpable actinic keratoses, new medical therapies may accomplish this goal more comfortably and reliably for the patient. Newer topical medications, light therapy and photodynamic therapy are generating promising results that presage more widespread use in the future. These novel therapies for the early treatment of actinic keratosis may be administered in combination or serially, with the locus of treatment at any given time possibly restricted to a region of affected skin. Treatment of incipient or subclinical lesions may mitigate the risk of future squamous cell carcinomas lesions. Widespread actinic keratosis constitutes a persistent medical problem that requires long-term management. The role of traditional and novel treatments in the routine treatment of actinic keratosis will be determined by the efficacy, limitations and the practicality of each of these methods in individual patients. As the first stage of squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis is worthy of prompt evaluation and active treatment.
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