ActinicKeratosesNet Spotlight Article
Could that be an AK on Your Skin?
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are so common today that
treatment for these lesions ranks as one of the most frequent
reasons that people consult a dermatologist. Most people simply want
the lesion removed for cosmetic reasons and are unaware that they
have developed a potentially serious skin condition that can
progress to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that can
You may feel an AK before you see it. A small patch of skin can feel
rough, dry, and scaly. While this lesion may not be visible, the
surrounding skin usually shows signs of sun damage, such as broken
blood vessels, yellowish discoloration, or blotchy pigment.
Visible AKs can take many forms, including:
Rough scaly patches, crusts, or
sores that range in size from a pinpoint to larger than a
quarter. The color varies. Some AKs are red or skin-colored.
Others are brown, gray, or yellowish black.
Brownish patches, which may be
mistaken for age spots.
Large patches that resemble a rash
can occur when numerous AKs develop; patients often think they
have a rash that will not clear.
A growth that resembles an animalís
horn. The shape may be straight or curved, and the size tends to
range from that of a pinhead to a pencil eraser.
The cause of most AKs is unprotected,
long-term or intense exposure to the sunís harmful ultraviolet (UV)
rays. AKs tend to form in areas that receive the greatest amount of
sun exposure, such as the face, lower lip, scalp, ears, neck,
forearms, and back of the hands. Some people develop AKs on their
legs or trunk.
Since AKs usually occur after years of unprotected sun exposure,
most patients do not develop their first AKs until their 60s.
However, AKs can appear at any age. Today, dermatologists are
finding AKs in their younger patients. Some patients are in their
Suspicious Lesion, See a Dermatologist
If you believe you have an AK, be sure to contact a
dermatologist. Dermatologists receive extensive, specialized
training in the detection and treatment skin conditions. Early
diagnosis and treatment can prevent an AK from progressing to a type
of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
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