What Increases Your Risk?

If you have fair skin and have spent years in the sun, a red scaly patch or cluster of red bumps on your skin could be actinic keratoses. Individuals who have a weakened immune system also have an increased risk.

Use the checklist to gauge your risk factors.


Sun Exposure: Intense
Have you had periods of intense exposure to the sun (spend a lot of time
outdoors in the summer or live in an area that receives high-intensity sun year round)?


Fair Skin
Do you have pale white to creamy white skin? Fairer, less-pigmented skin increases the risk of developing AKs.


Color of Hair and Eyes
Do you have blond or red hair? Do you have blue, hazel, or green eyes?


Sun Sensitivity
Do you have a tendency to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight?


Are you 40 years of age or older? The likelihood of developing AKs increases with age, and lesions usually appear after age 40. However, people who live in geographic areas with year-round high-intensity sunlight, such as Florida or Southern California, may develop AKs earlier.  While uncommon, AKs have been diagnosed in teenagers. Earlier occurrence may be linked to use of tanning beds and sun lamps.


Immunosuppression (weak immune system)
Many factors can weaken your immune system, including  long-term exposure to sunlight, chemotherapy, taking medication to prevent organ rejection, and AIDS. Anything that suppresses your immune system greatly increases your risk.


Xeroderma Pigmentosum
This is a very rare condition characterized by an abnormality in the cells ability to repair DNA damage. Anyone with this condition should be seen regularly by a dermatologist.

If sun exposure is one of your risk factors, there is good news. Itís never too late to begin protecting your skin from the sun - even if you have AKs. Research shows that the skinís recuperative powers can repair some of the damage when fully protected from ultraviolet (UV) light. Sun protection also can prevent further damage.

Anyone with an increased risk for developing AKs also should be examined by a dermatologist regularly. Additionally, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone, regardless of risk factors, perform regular skin self-examinations and see a dermatologist for a screening.

You may want to attend a free skin cancer screening sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology. During these screenings, which are offered across the United States, the public can be examined for suspicious lesions, such as AKs, and learn how to perform a skin self-examination.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Individuals with fair skin, a history of cumulative sun exposure, or with poor immune systems are at greatest risk for developing AKs.

American Academy of Dermatology


How to Perform a Self-Examination

Locate a Skin Cancer Screening Near You

     © American Academy of Dermatology, 2010  All rights reserved.

Disclaimer         Copyright Information