What Is Actinic Keratosis?

September 12, 2016

Also known as solar keratosis, actinic keratosis is a scaly or crusty growth or lesion that most often appears on the scalp, ears, lips, face or other areas of the body that get frequent sun exposure. Because there is usually more than one lesion, the plural, “keratoses,” is commonly seen.

At first this condition presents as such a small blemish it is recognized by touch more than by sight. To the touch, it is rough like sandpaper. There may be more lesions that cannot be seen on the surface.

The lesions develop slowly and can grow to 1/8” to 1/4”. At first, they may disappear and then reappear later. Coloration can vary from red to tan, pink or even the same color as your own skin.

Sometimes they itch or produce a prickly, tender sensation. They can also become irritated and have even been known to bleed.

Actinic keratoses indicate severe sun damage and the risk of skin cancer — not just squamous cell carcinoma.

Most of the lesions stay precancerous, although some studies report that up to 10 percent may become squamous cell carcinoma.  Though it’s not a huge percentage, it can still have a large effect.

Regarding squamous cell carcinomas, a high percentage of them begin as untreated actinic keratoses and have been known to advance to adjacent tissues.  Up to ten percent of the carcinomas may spread to the internal organs, in which case they become life-threatening.

Actinic cheilitis is another form of actinic keratosis but it forms on the lips and can evolve into squamous cell carcinoma.

The number of actinic keratosis you have equates to your risk that they can become cancerous. If you think you may have this condition, see your dermatologist. Actinic keratoses are considered precancerous, but left untreated, they can turn cancerous.

Looking to Visit a Dermatologist?

Check-ups with your dermatologist for a diagnosis are important. Early detection and local treatment is most often the solution for curing skin cancer. We have multiple locations throughout the country, so fill out our simple online form to get in touch with us. One of our local team members will reach out to you shortly to answer your questions or schedule an appointment for you to visit us soon.

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