Actinic keratosis (AK), or solar keratosis, is a common skin growth representing the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer.
Actinic keratoses result from chronic sun exposure and as a result develop over the sun exposed areas of the face, ears, lips, scalp, neck, chest, hands, arms, and legs.
AKs typically present as superficial scaling, rough, white to brown dry bumps or growths and may be small or large. AKs have a sand-paper like roughness and may be more easily noticed by touch. Actinic keratoses commonly disappear for weeks but return in the same place at a later time. If picked off, they grow back. Involvement of the lower lip commonly presents with chronic dryness, scaling, and cracking.
Untreated actinic keratoses may progress to become squamous cell carcinoma and thus are considered pre-cancerous growths. Early detection and treatment is essential to prevent this progression. There are various treatments, including cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) or prescription creams or gels, and Photodynamic Light Therapy. Wearing sunscreen and avoiding excessive sun exposure can help prevent sun damage and actinic keratoses.
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