Actinic Keratoses

Actinic keratoses, also called solar keratoses, are a precancerous skin condition. This condition most commonly affects fair-skinned, light-haired adults over the age of thirty, but anyone of any age or ethnicity is at risk. While actinic keratoses are very treatable, it is important to identify and diagnosis them as soon as possible. If not caught early, the condition can develop into skin cancer.

Causes: Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (i.e. the sun, tanning beds) is the primary cause of actinic keratoses. Less commonly, cancer-causing agents, called carcinogens, such as radiation and certain chemicals, can also cause actinic keratoses. It is this exposure to ultraviolet light and carcinogens that damages the DNA of epidermal (skin) cells. The DNA damage causes the skin cells to develop and grow abnormally into precancerous actinic keratoses.

Symptoms: Actinic keratoses can appear as dry, scaly, rough or crusty patches on the surface of the skin. Color of these patches vary from slightly red, light beige to dark brown and can also vary in size. Sometimes the lesions can be slightly tender to the touch.

Generally, actinic keratoses affect the face, ears, neck, lips, backs of the hands and forearms, because these areas are likely to receive the most exposure to sunlight.

Treatment: Sometimes actinic keratoses will go away on their own. However, the lesions will usually return after more sun exposure. It is recommended that they be treated because it is difficult to know if they will develop into skin cancer. Thankfully, actinic keratoses can be successfully resolved by a number of different treatments, including topical medications, cryotherapy, light and laser therapy, or other procedures.


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