When to See a Dermatologist

Any new, changing, or worrisome skin lesion - including suspected or diagnosed actinic keratoses (AKs) - should be examined by a dermatologist. Dermatologists are specialists in the treatment of skin, hair, and nails. To become a dermatologist, a medical-school graduate must complete at least four years of postgraduate residency training. This training and experience gives a dermatologist the knowledge and experience needed to specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails.

Diagnosis
Several studies have reported that dermatologists correctly diagnose significantly more skin lesions, including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (two types of skin cancer), than do non-dermatologists. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial when a patient has AKs. Left untreated, AKs have the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that can be deadly. Dermatologistsí training also makes them more comfortable in determining whether or not an AK lesion should be biopsied.

Treatment
In-depth knowledge of the skin, skin types, various treatment options for skin conditions, and the outcome of these treatments make dermatologists uniquely qualified to treat dermatologic conditions, including AKs. New treatment options and knowledge about dermatology continue to advance this medical specialty. As new therapies and knowledge emerge, dermatologists are typically the first to learn about these - including the most effective use of new therapies.

Follow-up Care
Patients with multiple AKs require life-long treatment and counseling. Data generated from analysis of more than 700 million office visits to physicians in a given year show that dermatologists are most likely to provide effective AK and skin cancer prevention counseling. Skin cancer prevention counseling is of importance to patients with AKs since AKs have the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer than can be deadly.

References:
Cassileth BR, et al. How well do physicians recognize melanoma and other problem lesions? J Amer Acad Dermatol. 1986 Apr;14(4):555-60.

Feldman SR, et al. Skin examinations and skin cancer prevention counseling by U.S. physicians: a long way to go. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 Aug;43(2 Pt 1):234-7


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At least 40% of all squamous cell carcinomas begin as AKs.

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