Hydrocarbon Keratosis

This is one of the much localized forms of keratosis since it occurs among a select group of people. It is a form of keratosis that occurs when people have been exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced from the incomplete combustion and distillation of coal, oil shale and natural gas. They are sometimes intentionally manufactured for use in production of plastics, pesticides and dyes. These hydrocarbons are commonly abbreviated as PAH. They are also produced in high volumes when meat is cooked at high temperatures such as barbecuing and smoking. Hydrocarbon keratosis is also referred to as pitch keratosis, tar keratosis and tar wart. It is a pre-cancerous form of keratotic skin lesion.

The people who are most vulnerable to this type of keratosis include workers of tar distillation plants, asphalt maintenance workers, people who work in shale extraction plants and others. This is not to mean that no other people are prone to contracting the disease, as long as a person is exposed to PAHs long enough, they can contract the disease. The disease causes several similar bumps on the skin that look like warts on physical examination. It may also cause thickening of skin.

As mentioned earlier, this form of keratosis is pre-cancerous and may eventually develop into skin cancer. The skin cancer that results from these growths is squamous cell carcinoma which is the same cancer caused by actinic keratosis. Since this condition is pre-malignant, the person must seek treatment as soon as the condition is identified. This condition can be treated in several ways and all the treatments are like those given to sufferers of the other types of keratosis.

One of the treatments available is the use of topical creams. These may not remove the growth and are usually applied to improve the appearance of the growths. Cryosurgery is another way of treating hydrocarbon keratosis. In this treatment, liquid nitrogen is applied on the growths freezing them and making it easier to exfoliate them. Cryosurgery is advantageous as it is relatively more affordable. It also involves less injury such as reduced bleeding and causes less scarring than other methods. Cryosurgery is however not completely safe as it may affect healthy tissue surrounding the affected area. It may also cause nerve damage.

Laser treatment can also be used. It is where high intensity light is used to literally vaporize the growth. The other method of treating hydrocarbon keratosis is the use of electrodessication. This uses electricity to burn off the growth.

For this type of keratosis, surgery is the best option and it may be combined with radiation therapy to kill cancerous cells if the disease is at an advanced stage.


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