You’re probably familiar with skin cancer. But actinic keratosis? Perhaps you’re not so familiar. Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precursor to a specific type of skin cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
AK is also called solar keratosis and appears on the skin as a grouping of raised bumps that may look like warts. The skin damage AKs cause is a result of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from UV light. This includes natural light from the sun, as well as artificial light from tanning machines. These lesions often appear on the face, shoulders, neck, and other parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun.
The longer AKs are present on the skin, the greater the risk that they will progress into either squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancer. Currently, doctors are unable to predict which AKs might turn into cancer and which ones will remain benign (non-cancerous), so it’s important to treat all AKs as soon as possible
Calcipotriene is a medication applied to the skin that increases the anti-cancer activity of the body’s immune system. By increasing this activity, the immune system “suppresses the growth of early-stage skin cancers,” according to Dr. Shawn Demehri. 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU also boosts the immune system, but a study has shown that AK lesions are treated more effectively with a combination of 5-FU and calcipotriene.
The knowledgeable pharmacists at The Compounding Center provide calcipotriene and 5-FU together as a prescription-only combination cream. Our cream includes 0.005% calcipotriene and 5% 5-FU, the same strength used in this clinical study. Since the cream is a combination, it allows for a shorter treatment course. It is typically applied twice a day for four days.