Treating Actinic Keratosis and Bowen Disease

Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis is often treated because it can turn into squamous cell skin cancer. But because this risk is low, treatments are generally aimed at avoiding scars or other disfiguring marks as much as possible.

Actinic keratosis is often treated with either cryotherapy or topical creams or gels such as fluorouracil (5-FU), imiquimod, diclofenac, or ingenol mebutate. These treatments destroy the affected area of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, which usually cures actinic keratosis.

Other localized treatments (shave excision, curettage and electrodesiccation, photodynamic therapy, laser surgery, chemical peeling) are also sometimes used.

Bowen disease

Bowen disease (squamous cell carcinoma in situ) is usually treated by excision (cutting out the tumor). Mohs surgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, radiation therapy, topical fluorouracil (5-FU), and cryosurgery are other options. Laser surgery or topical therapy may be considered in special situations.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 1, 2016 Last Revised: May 10, 2016

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