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Actinic Keratosis (AK)

MedicalJ Moore


What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratoses (AKs) are dry, scaly, rough-textured patches or lesions that form on the outer layer of skin. They are caused by chronic sun exposure and other forms of ultraviolet radiation (UV light). These lesions typically range in color from skin-toned to reddish brown and in size from that of a pinhead to larger than a quarter. that anyone with AKs be under a dermatologist’s care. AKs are considered precancers, the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer and have the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that can be fatal. Anyone who develops AKs has extensively sun-damaged skin, which makes one more susceptible to other forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. 

What Causes Actinic Keratosis?

Years of sun exposure cause AKs to develop. All AKs develop in the top layer of skin cells called keratinocytes. Years of sun exposure cause these cells to change in size, shape, and the way they are organized. Cellular damage can even extend to the dermis, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis.

Who gets Actinic Keratosis?

Individuals with fair skin, a history of cumulative sun exposure, or a weak immune system are at greatest risk for developing AKs. These lesions develop on areas of the body that have received years of sun exposure, such as the face, ears, lip, scalp, neck, forearms, and back of the hands. AKs usually appear after age 40 because they take years to develop. However, younger people can have AKs when they live in areas that receive high-intensity sunlight year round.

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