An actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly patch on your skin that develops from years of exposure to the sun. It's most commonly found on your face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp or neck. Also known as solar keratosis, an actinic keratosis enlarges slowly and usually causes no signs or symptoms other than a patch or small spot on your skin.
Over time, actinic keratoses may develop into invasive squamous cell carcinoma; according to one study of almost 7000 patients, among the small percentage of actinic keratoses that progress into squamous cell carcinoma, the length of time for this transformation to occur was approximately 2 years.Cells within actinic keratoses (AKs) show characteristic UV-induced gene mutations.
Actinic keratoses are extremely common, and the populations most at risk are older individuals with chronic sun-exposure and light skin. Millions of office visits to dermatologists each year are related to actinic keratosis. One early estimate of the prevalence of actinic keratosis in the United States was 39.5 million.Factors leading to an increased incidence of actinic keratosis include cumulative ultraviolet radiation exposure, increasing age, childhood sun exposure, male sex, and residing in latitudes close to the equator.
There are many treatments for AKs. Some treatments your dermatologist can perform in the office. Other treatments you will use at home. The goal of treatment is to destroy the AKs. Some patients receive more than one type of treatment. Treatments for AKs include: In-office procedures: • Cryotherapy: Destroys visible AKs by freezing them. The treated skin often blisters and peels off within a few days to a few weeks.