Actinic Keratosis


This condition, also known as solar keratosis, is a common precancerous growth that develops on the skin. It is characterized by small, rough patches called keratoses. These growths are most commonly found on the face, hands, forearms and neck, and should be examined by a doctor.


Actinic keratosis is caused by frequent or intense sun exposure and usually takes years to develop. These rough patches form in the skin's outer layer when skin cells are damaged by UV radiation. This condition occurs most frequently in older adults, especially those with fair skin and light hair and eyes. While actinic keratoses are considered benign, they may develop into skin cancer if left untreated.


The main symptom of actinic keratosis is the appearance of rough, discolored patches on the skin that won't go away. Usually, the keratoses form in groups, although a single keratosis can be relatively small - about the size of a pencil eraser. They may itch or sting and are sometimes surrounded by red, irritated skin.

Prevention and Treatment

Actinic keratosis can be prevented by reducing sun exposure and by using sunscreen. Once a keratosis has formed, it should be examined and treated by a doctor to prevent possible progression into skin cancer. Options for removing the keratoses include freezing, creams or ointments, chemical peeling, laser therapy, or scraping. Removal of the growth is usually effective.