Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis, also called solar or senile keratosis, is a precancerous skin condition that develops in sun-exposed skin, especially on the face, hands, forearms, and neck. It occurs most often in pale-skinned, fair-haired, light-eyed people beginning at age 30 or 40.

Actinic keratoses are persistent, noticeable, small red, brown, or skin-colored patches that may become scaly, scabbed, or crusted. The patches may itch, burn, or sting.

If the affected skin is protected from the sun, the patches may grow smaller and disappear. If sun exposure continues, they may eventually change into skin cancers (squamous cell carcinoma). Early treatment of actinic keratoses—by cryotherapy (freezing), electrosurgery (burning), curettage (scraping), photodynamic therapy with ALA (a treatment combining light and medicine), or medicines that are put on the skin—can prevent progression to squamous cell carcinoma.

Last Updated: October 14, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.