Considerations in the Management of Actinic Keratosis: The Importance of Adherence and Persistence to Therapy

Main Article Content

Justin Marson
James Del Rosso
Neal Bhatia
Darrell Rigel


Actinic Keratosis, Field Treatment, Local Skin Reaction, Adherence, Treatment Duration, Patient Education


Background: Actinic keratosis (AK) is a pre-malignant lesion with a poorly defined risk of progression to invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). AKs are also associated with increased future risk of invasive SCC. However, there are many barriers to therapy adherence that may affect long-term treatment efficacy.

Objective: To review the current literature reporting known known factors of AK treatment non-adherence intrinsic to patient behavior and treatment regimens and re-examine how dermatologists can navigate these challenges.

Methods: A Medline literature search was performed to identify existing evidence regarding barriers to adherence with AK treatment regimens intrinsic to patient behavior, patient counseling, and treatment regimens pertinent for review. 

Results & Discussion: Factors intrinsic to prescribed patient-applied therapy that can exacerbate  non-adherence include: 1) length of treatment duration, 2) frequency of application, 3) complexity of treatment regimen, 4) duration and 5) severity of local skin reactions (LSR) and adverse reactions. Novel mechanisms of action that induce cellular apoptosis (as opposed to necrosis) via inhibition of tubulin polymerization and cell cycle arrest, may promote treatment regimen adherence and long-term outcomes. Dermatologists should also be conscious of how they counsel patients as insufficient counseling may also lead to poor adherence.

Conclusion: Dermatologists must understand the value of shorter course therapies and their positive impact on adherence and be well-versed in the mechanisms, efficacy and adverse events associated with treatment options. By doing so, dermatologists may best counsel and educate patients and devise regimens that address individualized patient concerns.



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