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Actinic keratosis

Solar keratosis; Sun-induced skin changes - keratosis; Keratosis - actinic (solar); Skin lesion - actinic keratosis 

Actinic keratosis is a small, rough, raised area on your skin. Often this area has been exposed to the sun over a long period of time.

Some actinic keratoses may develop into a type of skin cancer.

Images

Actinic keratosis on the arm
Actinic keratosis - close-up
Actinic keratosis on the forearms
Actinic keratosis on the scalp
Actinic keratosis - ear

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Causes

Actinic keratosis is caused by exposure to sunlight.

You are more likely to develop it if you:

Symptoms

Actinic keratosis is usually found on the face, scalp, back of the hands, chest, or places that are often in the sun.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will look at your skin to diagnose this condition. A skin biopsy may be done to see if it is cancer.

Treatment

Some actinic keratoses become squamous cell skin cancer. Have your provider look at all skin growths as soon as you find them. Your provider will tell you how to treat them.

Growths may be removed by:

If you have many of these skin growths, your doctor may recommend:

Outlook (Prognosis)

A small number of these skin growths turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you see or feel a rough or scaly spot on your skin, or if you notice any other skin changes.

Prevention

The best way to lower your risk for actinic keratosis and skin cancer is to learn how to protect your skin from sun and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Things you can do to lower your exposure to sunlight include:

Other things to know about sun exposure:

Related Information

Squamous cell skin cancer

References

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Actinic keratosis: diagnosis and treatment. www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/actinic-keratosis-treatment. Updated February 12 , 2021. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Dinulos JGH. Premalignant and malignant nonmelanoma skin tumors. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.

Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR. Pigmentation. In: Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR, eds. Dermatology: An Illustrated Colour Text. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 42.

Soyer HP, Rigel DS, McMeniman E. Actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 108.

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Review Date: 11/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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