Investigating Sun-damaged Skin and Actinic Keratosis with Optical Coherence Tomography: A Pilot Study

Jennifer K. Barton, Kirk W. Gossage, Wei Xu, James R. Ranger-Moore, Kathylynn Saboda, Christine A. Brooks, Laura D. Duckett, Stuart J. Salasche, James A. Warneke, David S. Alberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Actinic Keratosis (AK) arises from sun-damaged skin and is the first clinical manifestation in the multistep process of skin carcinogenesis to invasive squamous cell carcinoma. Thus, it is an ideal target for chemopreventive efforts. Noninvasive measures of AK severity are needed to assess the efficacy of chemoprevention agents. We performed a pilot study on 20 participants to investigate the OCT appearance of sun-protected skin of the upper inner arm as well as sun-damaged skin and early AKs of the dorsal forearms, and to determine if features or quantitative measures in Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) images could be used to reliably differentiate between these categories. OCT images of upper inner arm (normal appearing skin) showed skin layers and features (stratum corneum, epidermis, dermis, blood vessels) seen in previous studies; additionally in this participant group the subcutaneous fat layer was usually identified. Sun-damaged skin was characterized by increased signal in the epidermis and rapid attenuation of light. AKs were diverse in appearance but frequently characterized by high surface reflection, the presence of a low-signal band in the stratum corneum, and heterogeneous appearance in the epidermis/dermis. Significant differences were found between skin categories using measures of stratum corneum and epidermal/dermal depths and intensities. The presence of a dark band in the stratum corneum was 79% sensitive and 100% specific for AK. This study indicates that OCT holds promise as a useful technique for identifying and characterizing AKs and monitoring their response to chemoprevention agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-535
Number of pages11
JournalTechnology in Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Actinic keratosis
  • Image processing
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Optical imaging
  • Precancer
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Sun-damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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