Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis

Considered to be precancerous, an actinic keratosis skin lesion shows symptoms of a rough, scaly patch on the ears, face, lips, forearms, back of your hands, scalp and neck. Also referred to as a solar keratosis, an actinic keratosis grows slowly and can be slightly sensitive or have no symptoms at all.

Frequent or intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, typically from the sun or tanning beds, produces actinic keratoses. This growth begins in the epidermis, the outer layer of protective cells. Usually healthy, new cells develop and push the older cells to the surface, where they slough off the skin. UV radiation changes the skin's texture and color, causing blotchiness, bumps and/or lesions. The more exposure you have, the greater the risk of developing actinic keratoses, which can lead to skin cancer.

These symptoms indicate an actinic keratosis:

  • A hard, wart-like lesion
  • Dry, rough or scaly patch of skin, usually under 1 inch in diameter
  • Flat or slightly raised area

After examining the area, your doctor can probably determine if you have an actinic keratosis or not. For confirmation, the doctor may have the lesion biopsied. Because a doctor cannot predict which lesions will turn into skin cancer, most physicians recommend removal of an actinic keratosis. After treatment, your doctor will schedule follow up visits to check for any new patches. Removal options may include:

  • Applying creams or ointments
  • Chemical peeling
  • Dermabrasion
  • Freezing the lesion
  • Laser therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy to destroy the cells
  • Scraping with a curettage

Because actinic keratoses can lead to skin cancer, take precautions to:

  • Apply sunscreen
  • Check your skin often for any changes
  • Limit time in the sun
  • Keep your skin covered
  • Stay away from tanning beds and tanning accelerants



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Coast Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center
21550 Angela Lane
Venice, FL 34293

P. 941-493-7400