Fulano had some raised patches of skin on his face. They didn’t bother him, didn’t itch and were barely noticable. Fulano showed them to his doctor. He immediately diagnosed the spots as Actinic Keratosis (AK), a precancerous condition also known as solar keratosis, the result of prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Actinic keratoses, though relatively harmless themselves, must be taken seriously because they are considered warning signs of skin cancer and should be treated immediately to prevent them from developing into something much more serious. All those lazy summer days at the beach as a kid in Southern California caught up to him.
If one only has a few of these AK spots, the doctor can treat them with liquid nitrogen, which freezes them off. But when there are too many, and potentially other spots not yet visible, the standard treatment is a two-week application of a medicine called Efudex.
Fulano started the Efudex treatment last week, and he currently looks and feels like a strawberry. AK lesions multiply at a faster rate than normal cells. Fluorouracil, the active ingredient in Efudex, is believed to interfere with a cell’s ability to reproduce. As a result, the unhealthy cells absorb the fluorouracil faster than healthy, normal cells. The cells turn red, crust over and fall off. New healthy skin underneath takes their place. The entire process takes about 8 weeks.
This picture is not Fulano — I got this picture off the internet — but this is about what his skin looks like right now:
Fulano has pretty much the same expression all day too.