A common type of sun-related skin damage is actinic keratosis. Also called solar keratosis.
The most common type of precancerous skin lesion, AKs appear on skin that has been frequently exposed to the sun or to artificial sources of UV light, such as tanning machines. Above all, they appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face, bald scalp, ears, shoulders, neck and the back of the hands and forearms. They can also appear on the shins and other parts of the legs Most AKs are dry, scaly, rough-textured spots on the skin. They are often elevated, and can resemble warts. Most become red, but some are light or dark tan, white, pink and/or flesh-toned. They can also be a combination of these colors.
In the beginning, AKs are frequently so small that they are recognized by touch rather than sight. They feel as if you were running a finger over sandpaper. Patients may have many times more invisible (subclinical) lesions than those appearing on the surface.
Most often, actinic keratoses develop slowly and reach a size from an eighth to a quarter of an inch. Early on, they may disappear only to reappear later. Occasionally they itch or produce a pricking or tender sensation. They can also become inflamed and surrounded by redness. In rare instances, AKs can even bleed.
Anyone who has many AKs should be under a dermatologist’s care. Most people who have many AKs continue to get new AKs for life. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
By seeing a dermatologist for checkups, the AKs can be treated before they become skin cancer.If skin cancer does develop, it can be caught early when treatment often cures skin cancer.
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