One out of 7 Americans has actinic keratosis, a skin condition that can become cancerous if untreated.
Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that forms a scaly patch on a portion of the body that has been heavily exposed to the sun and UV rays. The condition is most commonly found on the face, lips, ears, back of the hands, forearms, scalp, or neck. Actinic keratosis typically causes no signs or symptoms other than a patch or small spot on your skin, but it can eventually lead to skin cancer if it is not treated.
Actinic Keratosis Risk Factors
The leading cause of actinic keratosis is overexposure to sunlight or UV rays from indoor tanning. Aside from too much sun exposure, certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing actinic keratosis, including:
- Being 40 years of age or older
- A history of sunlight sensitivity
- A weakened immune system as a result of chemotherapy, chronic leukemia, AIDS, or certain medications
Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis
Common signs of actinic keratosis include:
- A dry, scaly patch of skin less than 1 inch in diameter (the color may vary from pink to brown and in some cases will appear flesh-colored)
- A noticeably flat patch or bump on the top layer of skin
- Itching or burning in the affected area
Actinic Keratosis Diagnosis and Treatment
Individuals who develop actinic keratosis should seek treatment as the condition can be eliminated if caught at an early stage. The Adena Dermatology team will begin by asking a series of questions about the lesion and history of sun exposure and may perform a skin biopsy for analysis. Most skin biopsies are performed in the clinic using a numbing injection.
Although actinic keratosis can resolve on its own, it is likely to reoccur if the skin becomes exposed to sunlight. Many physicians prescribe topical medications that are applied to the skin to aid in the healing process. For more severe cases, certain procedures such as cryotherapy (freezing) and curettage (scraping) may be performed to eliminate damaged cells.
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