Actinic keratosis is a scaly spot found on sun-damaged skin. Also known as solar keratosis, it is a precancerous or an early form of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
People who get AKs usually have fair skin. Most people see their first AKs after 40 years of age because AKs tend to develop after years of sun exposure. AKs usually form on the parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms. Because an AK can progress to a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), treatment is important.
Some characteristics of AK include:
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning can badly damage skin and cause an AK to form. Most people get more than one AK. When you have more than one AK, you have actinic keratoses, or AKs.
Anyone who has many AKs should be under a dermatologist’s care. Most people who have many AKs continue to get new AKs for life. AKs are precancerous. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Untreated lesions have up to a 20% risk of progression to squamous cell carcinoma.
Dermatologists can treat AKs before they become skin cancer. In addition, regular visits allow doctors to catch and treat AK that becomes skin cancer.
Screening for Skin Cancer is an important step in prevention. Learn how to identify different skin cancers.