"It is an option to treat these lesions, a good percentage of which will go on to evolve to skin cancer," Swanson said.
In addition to skin gels, doctors treat actinic keratosis in other ways that include burning or scraping with an electric or laser device, cutting the tumor out, or freezing the tumor in a procedure called cryotherapy.
Commenting on the study treatment, Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "it is efficacious and it's good for patients who can't tolerate other treatment."
However, Day said she would most likely use this gel in combination with other methods to treat the condition.
"I don't think I would use it as monotherapy," she said. "I don't think it penetrates deeply into the skin. So I would mix this with my other treatments such as laser and cryotherapy."
Day stressed that it is important to treat actinic keratosis before it becomes skin cancer.
To learn about actinic keratosis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Mark Lebwohl, M.D., professor and chairman of dermatology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; Neil Swanson, M.D., director, dermatologic surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; Doris Day, M.D., dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; March 15, 2012, New England Journal of Medicine
All rights reserved