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An actinic keratosis is a sun induced pre-cancerous lesion. It appears as a scaly or crusty bump that arises on the surface of the skin. It is most often dry and rough, and sometimes causes itching and tenderness. Many times several keratoses will appear in one area. The base of the lesion may vary in color. It may appear tan,pink,red or skin color. This condition is most common on the face, ears, bald scalp, hands, forearms, lips and neck.
Sun exposure is the cause of almost all actinic keratoses. Individuals who are most susceptible to sunburn such as those with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue, green or gray eyes are at greatest risk. It is estimated that one in six people will develop an actinic keratosis in their lifetime. Because cumulative sun exposure increases with years, older individuals are more likely to develop this condition.
Actinic keratosis is a pre cancerous condition and therefore should be treated seriously. It is estimated that 10% of active actinic keratoses will advance to squamous or basal cell carcinomas. If these lesions are detected and treated in the early stages, they are much less likely to turn into skin cancer. Another form of actinic keratosis called actinic cheilitis appears on the lips and can also evolve into squamous cell carcinoma.
The decision regarding treatment will depend on the nature of the lesion, as well as the age and health of the patient. Treatments include: