Actinic keratosis

Definition

Actinic keratosis is a small, rough, raised area found on areas of your skin that have often been exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

Some actinic keratoses may develop into a type of skin cancer.

Alternative Names

Solar keratosis; Sun-induced skin changes - keratosis; Keratosis - actinic (solar)

Causes

Actinic keratosis is caused by exposure to sunlight.

You are more likely to develop this if you:

Symptoms

Actinic keratosis is usually found on the face, scalp, back of the hands, chest, or places that are often in the sun.

Exams and Tests

Your doctor or nurse will look at your skin to diagnose this condition. A skin biopsy may be done to see if it is cancer.

Treatment

Some actinic keratoses become squamous cell skin cancer. Have all skin growths looked at by a doctor as soon as you find them. Your doctor will tell you how to treat it.

Growths may be removed by:

If you have many of these skin growths, your doctor may recommend:

Outlook (Prognosis)

A small number of these skin growths turn a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you see or feel a rough or scaly spot on your skin, or if you notice any other skin changes.

Prevention

The best way to lower your risk of actinic keratosis and skin cancer is to learn how to protect your skin from sun and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Things you can do to lower your exposure to sunlight include:

Other things to know about sun exposure:

References

Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:pp 812-818.


Soyer PH, Rigel DS, Wurm E MT: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 108.



 


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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