Actinic keratosis (also called solar keratosis, or AK) is a pre-malignant condition of thick, scaly, or crusty patches of skin. It is more common in fair-skinned people, especially those who are repeatedly exposed to the sun, as it is usually accompanied by sun damage. Spots usually begin appearing after the age of 50, though may develop earlier in sunny climates. Since some of these pre-cancers progress to squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer), they should be evaluated and treated.
Actinic keratoses are caused by sun exposure over long periods of time. The genetic structure of the skin is changed by UV exposure, allowing for abnormal skin growths to occur. These skin growths start out as flat scaly areas that feel rough, similar to sandpaper in texture, and later evolve into a tough, wart-like area.
An actinic keratosis growth commonly ranges between 2 and 6 millimeters in size, and can be dark or light, tan, pink, red, a combination of all these, or have the same coloring as surrounding skin. It may appear on any sun-exposed area, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, chest, backs of hands, forearms, or lips.
You will sometimes feel the presence of an AK lesion before you see it.
Doctors can usually identify AK by doing a thorough examination. A biopsy may be necessary when the keratosis is large and/or thick, to make sure that the bump is a keratosis and not a skin cancer. Seborrheic keratoses are other bumps that appear in groups like the actinic keratosis but are not caused by sun exposure, and are not related to skin cancers. Seborrheic keratoses may be mistaken for an actinic keratosis. Our Board-Certified physicians and medical staff recommend that you not take chances with any unusual or abnormal skin growth. Delayed evaluation can result in prolonged treatment or the diagnosis of potential skin cancer.
Regular follow-up after treatment is advised by many doctors. The regular checks are to make sure new bumps have not developed and that old ones haven’t become thicker and/or have skin disease.
Source Graceway Pharmaceuticals
Prevention is very important. Sun protection can reduce the number of new areas occurring and may help small lesions go away on their own. If you are being treated for AKs it is extra important to adhere to your doctor’s precautions.
Sun Damaged Skin Slide Show
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