Actinic keratosis is a rough, almost scaly patch of skin found on areas of your body that are commonly exposed to the sun. This can include the lips, face, ears, forearms, scalp, or your neck. It slowly grows and can develop over the course of years. It can develop into skin cancer.

What are the symptoms of actinic keratosis?

Outside of the scaly patch of skin, actinic keratosis does not display any further symptoms. This patch of skin may be hard and wart-like, and range in colors from pink to brown. There may be a slight itching or burning sensation as well. See a doctor or a dermatologist if actinic keratosis develops and displays any itching, burning, or pain. You may also watch for oozing, bleeding, or any changes in shape or color.

What causes actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is mainly caused by UV exposure. Skin cells can be damaged by UV rays from the sun or commercial tanning beds.

How can you prevent actinic keratosis?

Make sure you limit your time in the sun, particularly during the times of the day when the sunlight is most intense. Use sunscreen on a regular basis, with an SPF of at least 30. Cover yourself to keep the sun’s rays off of your skin. You also want to avoid tanning beds, as this not only increases your risk of actinic keratosis, but also of skin cancer. Check your skin on a regular basis and consult a dermatologist if any changes occur.

How is actinic keratosis treated?

While a doctor cannot confirm whether or not actinic keratosis will develop into skin cancer, it is treated as a precaution. This treatment normally involves the removal of the patch. This can be done through cryotherapy (or freezing), scraping it off, chemical peels, creams and ointments, dermabrasion, or even laser therapy.