Skip to Content
Actinic keratosis, also called solar keratosis, is a
skin growth 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.
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:
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.
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)
Your doctor may recommend one of these treatments:
Actinic keratosis may turn into skin cancer, but this isn't common. There is no way to find out whether actinic keratosis will
progress to squamous cell carcinoma or how fast this might occur. Keratoses on
the ear and lip are at the highest risk of developing into cancer because of
the sensitivity of the ear and lip to sun exposure.
You can help
prevent actinic keratosis by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen when
you are in the sun. You should also
examine your skin for the condition and other suspicious growths once a month,
especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun.
To protect your skin:
Other Works Consulted
Duncan KO, et al. (2012). Epithelial precancerous lesions. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1261–1283. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kose O, et al. (2008). Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of 3% diclofenac sodium gel and 5% imiquimod cream in the treatment of actinic keratosis. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 19(3): 159–163.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Current as ofApril 26, 2016
Current as of:
April 26, 2016
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2017 Rush Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)