What Is Actinic Keratosis?

So many disorders with the skin begin with excessive sun exposure without significant protection. Actinic keratosis is often referred to as solar keratosis. It is a precancerous condition that appears to be a crusty, thick patch of skin. Solar damage is at the top of the list and is more common among blonds or fair-skinned individuals. That makes sense because fair skin is more sensitive to the sun. It is also more common in people who are on immunosuppressive drugs. So what is actinic keratosis? It is a common condition affecting about half the population.


The beginning of the actinic keratosis appears scaly and crusty in areas of the skin that are heavily exposed to the sun without protection, such as sun block cream. If left untreated, this crusty patch of skin has a high rate of developing into a squamous cell carcinoma. Even though the actinic keratosis begins as a flat scaly spot on the skin, it does grow in height, as well as other surface growth.

Size and Color

The individual who suspects he has what is actinic keratosis on his skin can look for a lesion type area that could be in a color from light to dark tan, light to dark pink or red or any combination of these colors. Since it is triggered by sun exposure, the lesion will typically appear on the face, neck, lips, chest, scalp or forearms.


Actinic keratosis can be put into various type categories, including hyperkeratotic actinic keratosis, pigmented actinic keratosis, atrophic actinic lichenoid and actinic keratosis.

Diagnosis and Prevention

A physician may be able to diagnose the condition with a visual examination only. However, usually there will be a biopsy done for the most accurate diagnosis. The reason for the biopsy is to satisfy the question of whether it is skin cancer or simply a pre-cancerous growth.

Prevention is an important aspect because it is simpler, safer and medically better. Also provide protection for the skin whenever you are outside for a long period of time. This protection may be in the form of some type of sunscreen cream, a hat or some light wrap for the shoulders. Know the hours when the ultraviolet rays are the strongest. That time period is usually between 10 AM and 4 PM.


Once you know what is actinic keratosis, you can seek treatment for it with certain types of gel that are anti-inflammatory. The physician may also decide to freeze it off with liquid nitrogen.

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