Actinic keratoses (AKs) are growths that occur commonly in the sun-exposed areas such as the face, scalp, ears, hands, arms and legs. Just by themselves, they are not harmful, however they are considered pre-cancers. A fraction of these actinic keratoses turn into a type of skin cancer called the squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Most commonly, these spots are treated with a liquid nitrogen cold spray (cryotherapy). Other treatments include medicated creams like Aldara (imiquimod), Efudex or Carac (5-fluorouracil, 5-FU) are also used. Now, there’s a new player on the market: ingenol mebutate.

Ingenol mebutate is a gel and a recent study reported on its successful use in the treatment of actinic keratoeses in the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers applied this gel for 3 days in a row for actinic keratoses of the scalp or face, and 2 days in a row for those on the trunk, arms, legs, hands or feet. Overall, there was good effect on these actinic keratoses — 42% clearance for scalp or face spots; 34% for trunk or extremities spots at 2 months out.

So is ingenol mebutate right for you? Well, there are several different treatments for actinic keratoses. Discuss with your doctor the benefits or risks of each treatment. For ingenol mebutate, keep in mind that is it a brand-name drug and may not be covered by your insurance as such.

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