An actinic keratosis is a skin lesion caused by the UV light present in sunlight. These lesions typically appear as rough, scaly patches of skin and are most likely to be found on the face, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. Individuals with fair skin and light hair and eyes are more prone to the development of actinic keratoses. While actinic keratoses on their own are not dangerous, this condition can develop into carcinoma if left untreated by a dermatologist.
Actinic Keratoses and Skin Cancer
The most significant health concern associated with actinic keratoses is the development of skin cancer. While not all actinic keratoses are dangerous, approximately ten percent of these lesions will develop into squamous cell carcinoma over time; a smaller percentage may develop into basal cell carcinoma. Actinic keratoses appear and grow slowly, typically taking years to develop—this is why it’s essential to bring up any changes in your skin with your dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat an early-stage actinic keratosis easily using prescription medication, photodynamic therapy, or physical removal of the lesion via surgery or freezing.
Preventing Actinic Keratoses
The prevention of actinic keratoses will lower your overall risk of skin cancer. Because these lesions are associated with solar exposure, limiting direct exposure of the skin to sunlight with shade and clothing or wearing an appropriately-rated sunscreen while spending time outdoors are the easiest ways to prevent their development. Additionally, you should avoid activities such as tanning outdoors or in tanning beds, and never use a tan-accelerating agent on the skin. If you do notice a change in your skin that you think could be the development of an actinic keratosis, schedule an evaluation with your dermatologist.
Visiting your dermatologist regularly is the key to identifying health concerns, including actinic keratoses and other precursors to carcinoma of the skin. You can schedule an appointment with a dermatologist by calling