Actinic keratosis, also called solar keratosis, is a
precancerous skin condition that develops in sun-exposed skin, especially on
the face, hands, forearms, and the neck. It is seen most often in pale-skinned,
fair-haired, light-eyed people, beginning at age 30 or 40 and becoming more
common with age.
Actinic keratoses are
small and noticeable red, brown, or skin-colored patches that don't go away.
They commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands but can be found on other areas
of the body. Usually more than one is present. They may:
Actinic keratosis needs to be evaluated by a doctor,
especially if the keratoses become painful, bleed, become open sores, become
infected, or increase in size.
keratosis is diagnosed through a skin examination. Your doctor may use a bright
light or magnifying lens to look for growths, moles, or lesions. The scalp is
examined by parting the hair. If there is a possibility of cancer, your doctor
may take a sample of your skin and test (biopsy)
Early treatment of actinic
keratosis is recommended to stop the possible progression to a type of skin
cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Treatment may
have actinic keratosis, you may have an increased risk for squamous
cell carcinoma. There is no way to find out whether actinic keratosis will
progress to squamous cell carcinoma or how fast this might occur. Keratoses on
the ear and lip are at the highest risk of developing into cancer because of
the sensitivity of the ear and lip to sun exposure.
You can help
prevent actinic keratosis by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen when
you are in the sun. You should also
examine your skin for the condition and other suspicious growths once a month,
especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun.
To protect your skin:
Other Works Consulted
Duncan KO, et al. (2008). Actinic keratosis section of Epithelial precancerous lesions. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1007–1015. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
Kose O, et al. (2008). Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of 3% diclofenac sodium gel and 5% imiquimod cream in the treatment of actinic keratosis. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 19(3): 159–163.
October 2, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
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