Actinic keratosis


An actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly patch that forms on the skin due to prolonged exposure to the sun. It commonly occurs on areas such as the face, lips, ears, forearms, scalp, neck, or back of the hands.

This condition, also known as solar keratosis, typically develops gradually and is more frequently seen in individuals above the age of 40. By minimizing sun exposure and safeguarding the skin against ultraviolet (UV) rays, the risk of developing actinic keratosis can be reduced.

It is important to note that actinic keratosis is classified as a precancerous condition. This means that if left untreated, it has the potential to progress into skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.


Actinic keratoses can manifest in various ways, presenting with the following symptoms:

  • The affected skin area appears rough, dry, or scaly, typically measuring less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter.
  • A patch or bump, slightly raised or flat, is visible on the outermost layer of the skin.
  • Color variations may occur, including pink, red, or brown patches.
  • Itching, burning, bleeding, or crusting sensations may be experienced.
  • New patches or bumps can emerge on sun-exposed areas such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms.
  • Horn-like growths may develop, protruding from the skin surface.
  • Pain or tenderness might be present in the affected area.

Distinguishing between noncancerous spots and cancerous ones can be challenging. Therefore, it is advisable to seek evaluation from a healthcare provider when encountering new skin changes, particularly if a scaly spot or patch persists, grows in size, or starts to bleed.


Actinic keratosis is a condition that develops as a result of repeated or intense exposure to UV rays emitted by the sun or tanning beds. The UV light has the potential to harm the outer layer of skin cells known as keratinocytes.

Risk factors

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing actinic keratoses. These include:

  • Possessing red or blond hair and having blue or light-colored eyes.
  • Having a history of extensive sun exposure or sunburn.
  • Being prone to freckling or burning when exposed to sunlight.
  • Being over the age of 40.
  • Residing in a sun-drenched location.
  • Work outdoors
  • Having red or blond hair and blue or light-colored eyes, as well as blue or green eyes.
  • Having a compromised immune system.