Actinic Keratosis - Topic Overview
What is actinic keratosis, and what causes it?
Actinic keratosis, also called solar keratosis, is a
precancerous skin condition that develops in sun-exposed skin, especially on
the face, hands, forearms, and the neck. It is seen most often in pale-skinned,
fair-haired, light-eyed people, beginning at age 30 or 40 and becoming more
common with age.
What are the symptoms?
Actinic keratoses are
small and noticeable red, brown, or skin-colored patches that don't go away.
They commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands but can be found on other areas
of the body. Usually more than one is present. They may:
- Have a rough texture.
Itch, burn, or sting.
- Range in size from 1 mm to 3 mm or larger (about the size of
a small pea).
- Be numerous, with several patches close together.
- Be surrounded by red, irritated skin.
Actinic keratosis needs to be evaluated by a doctor,
especially if the keratoses become painful, bleed, become open sores, become
infected, or increase in size.
How is actinic keratosis diagnosed?
keratosis is diagnosed through a skin examination. Your doctor may use a bright
light or magnifying lens to look for growths, moles, or lesions. The scalp is
examined by parting the hair. If there is a possibility of cancer, your doctor
may take a sample of your skin and test (biopsy)