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Actinic keratoses —AKs—are scaly patches on the skin that are typically caused by sun exposure. Although they are often benign, they do have the potential to turn into skin cancer. Ignoring AKs could be dangerous, so see your dermatologist if you develop a scaly patch of skin that does not go away on its own. Here is what you need to know.

AKs mean sun damage.

When you develop an AK, it is an indicator that your skin has suffered sun damage. It tells your dermatologist that you are at risk of developing skin cancer, even if the AK itself is benign. After you have an AK treated, your dermatologist may recommend that you undergo more frequent skin cancer screenings. Early diagnosis is important to successful skin cancer treatment, so getting screened regularly is critical, especially when you have a heightened risk.

AKs can become squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is the second most common form of skin cancer. If AKs are left untreated, they can turn into SCC. In fact, most cases of SCC start as AKs that have become cancerous. SCC can become malignant and spread to other parts of the body without early skin cancer treatments. It is impossible for your dermatologist to determine if your AK is one of the roughly 10% that will turn into SCC , so delaying treatment can be dangerous.

AKs can become basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, can also start out from an untreated AK. BCC is the most common kind of skin cancer, and although it seldom metastasizes, it can cause disfigurement if allowed to grow untreated. AKs are less likely to turn into BCC than SCC, but treatment is still necessary to prevent the change from happening.

Arlington Dermatology also offers extensive skin cancer treatments in Arlington for everything from simple cases of BCC to advanced cases of melanoma. If you have symptoms of an AK or another kind of skin cancer, call 847-392-5440 to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists.

doctor examining patient