DefinitionActinic keratosis (AK) is abnormal growth of the skin. It results in a rough, scaly, or crusted patch of skin. AK tends to occur on sun-damaged skin. AK is not cancer but it can sometimes change to squamous cell skin cancer. Treatment includes removing lesions and monitoring for skin cancer.
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CausesAK is caused by long term excessive sun exposure. Ultraviolet rays from sunlight can cause skin damage. Over time, this damage can cause abnormal growth of the skin, which may lead to AK or other disorders.
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of AK include:
- Fair skin color
- Easy sunburning
- Extra exposure to sun
- Occupations or pastimes in sunlight such as farmer, lifeguard, or athlete in outdoor sports
SymptomsSymptoms may include:
- Spotted or smeared red, thinning skin
- Rough, scaly, or crusted patches
DiagnosisYou will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A biopsy of the lesion may be done. The skin will be closely examined for cancer.
TreatmentTalk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. AK lesions increase your risk of skin cancer. The lesions are usually removed to decrease this risk. The lesion will also be monitored for signs of cancer.The exact method of removal will be determined by the number and location of the lesions.AK may be removed with:
- Chemical peel
- Photodynamic therapy
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