Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet rays damage your skin cells and even your DNA, which can lead to skin cancer. Not all cancers come with warning signs, but squamous cell carcinoma does. It starts out as little rough patches of skin that are often more easily felt than seen. These are called actinic keratoses (AKs), and they are the most common form of precancerous lesions.
The best way to get rid of AKs is to eradicate them with photodynamic therapy, which is our treatment of choice here at Holladay Dermatology in Holladay, Utah. Our patients from throughout the greater Salt Lake City area trust Dr. Robert Topham to provide the highest quality dermatological care based on his extensive experience and expertise.
Dr. Topham uses photodynamic therapy because it’s highly effective and irradiation-free. Here’s how it works.
A word about actinic keratosis
Actinic keratosis is fairly common. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 58 million Americans have at least one AK somewhere on their body.
After one AK crops up, there’s a good chance you’ll develop more, and there’s also a good chance one or more of them will develop into squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive, sometimes invasive, form of skin cancer.
AKs typically show up in the places where the sun hits your skin most often: your face, shoulders, ears, neck, scalp, arms, and hands.
The good news is that AKs can be removed with photodynamic therapy.
How photodynamic therapy removes AKs
Our AK photodynamic therapy consists of two important components: a photosensitizing gel and a special LED light source.
Dr. Topham starts by applying Ameluz®, a topical gel containing 10% aminolevulinic acid hydrochloride. This substance is approved for treatment of AKs and should only be administered by a licensed health care provider.
It takes skill and experience to prepare the AK for the Ameluz application, and Dr. Topham has both. Once your skin is ready, he applies no more than 2 grams of Ameluz and ensures it’s no more than 1 millimeter thick. He then covers the area with a dressing that keeps the light out while the solution penetrates your skin.
As the substance enters your cells, an enzymatic reaction turns the aminolevulinic acid hydrochloride into protoporphyrin IX, an essential protein in your cells that can cause photosensitivity. And that’s the reaction that allows the next step in photodynamic therapy to work.
After about three hours, Dr. Topham removes the dressing and directs light from the BF-RhodoLED® lamp at the affected area. The now-photosensitive cells absorb the red light and degrade and die.
You need to protect your skin from direct sunlight and other intense light for a couple of days, and you may have some swelling, itching, and scaling skin for a few days to a few weeks, but once the lesions crust over and fall away, you’re left with smoother, AK-free skin and a much lower risk for squamous cell carcinoma.
To get your skin evaluated and your AKs removed, schedule an appointment at Holladay Dermatology by calling 801-272-4408 today.