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BACKGROUND Actinic keratosis (AK) is a common lesion with its highest incidence in the aged population. Although treatment strategies for AK have continued to develop, the cost of such treatments has not been recently investigated.

PURPOSE The purpose of this article is to determine the frequency of visits for AK, the methods used to treat AK, and the cost of the treatments used annually.

METHODS Data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were used to determine the frequency of office visits for AK and the frequency of destructive procedures and topical treatment of AK. Medicare reimbursement rates were used to estimate the cost of the procedures performed. Costs of medications were based on published wholesale costs.

RESULTS There are an estimated 5.2 million AK visits annually, 60% of which are made by the Medicare population. A total of $920 million was spent on the treatment of AK annually, 6% being spent on topical therapy, 43% on office visits, and 51% on destructive procedures.

CONCLUSIONS Even though new topical therapies are evolving for the treatment of AK, destructive procedures remain the standard of care when considering frequency of use, efficacy, and cost control.