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Actinic Keratosis (A Precancerous Condition)


What is actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis, also known as a solar keratosis, is a scaly or crusty bump that arises on the skin surface. The base may be light or dark, tan, pink, red, a combination of these or the same color as the skin. The scale or crust is horny, dry, and rough and is often recognized by touch rather than sight. Occasionally, it itches or produces a pricking or tender sensation.

Actinic keratosis can be the first step in the development of skin cancer and therefore, is considered a precancerous skin condition. The presence of actinic keratoses indicates that sun damage has occurred and that any kind of skin cancer can develop.

What causes actinic keratosis?

Anyone can develop this problem, however, certain groups of people who are more at risk are:

  • Older than 40 years of age
  • Intense exposure to sun or sunburn
  • Have fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue, green, or grey eyes
  • Family history of Actinic keratosis or skin cancer
  • People who have undergone chemotherapy or suffer from leukemia, AIDS or organ transplant medications

Older people are more likely than younger people to develop actinic keratoses because cumulative sun exposure increases with age.

Treatment for actinic keratosis:

When diagnosed early, treatment for actinic keratosis may include medications, photodynamic therapy or surgical/other procedures such as cryotherapy (freezing the lesion), topical chemotherapy (anticancer drugs) and scraping (curettage).