Actinic keratosis | Actinic Keratoses

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Actinic Keratosis

What is actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is composed of sun-damaged cells in the top layer of the skin (epidermis). Actinic keratoses usually develop in skin areas that are chronically exposed to sun such as face, scalp, ears, arms, and hands. They appear as red, scaly areas that feel rough to the touch.

Multiple actinic keratoses involving the face

Who is at risk from actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis often occurs in the following people:

  • Males due to the fact that men are more likely to have outdoors occupations and hobbies
  • Individuals with fair skin and/ or red hair
  • Individuals who have had plenty of exposure to the sun in their youth
  • Individuals older than 45


Actinic keratoses have indistinct borders and are often better felt than seen. Usually an actinic keratosis appears as an irregular round or oval patch that may be up to 1 - 2 centimeters in diameter. Actinic keratoses may look red and most of the times have a scaly to rough horny surface. Besides redness of the area the scaly surface may also show yellowish or brownish hues. Performing a shave biopsy of the skin is the definitive way to make a diagnosis and to make sure that the growth has not turned into a squamous cell cancer.

Actinic keratoses

Actinic keratoses

Risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

If an actinic keratosis is not discovered and properly treated in time it has the potential of developing into a squamous cell carcinoma. This risk is estimated to be as high as 20% but appears to be closer to 3-5%.

Treatment Options

The treatment of choice for actinic keratosis is photodynamic therapy. The full range of treatment options for actinic keratosis include the following:

What should i do if i think i have an actinic keratosis?

There are several effective treatment options available for actinic keratosis. If you have actinic keratosis and would like to have Dr. Naficy assist you in treatment you may contact us through our website. A member of our nursing staff will contact you at a convenient time and perform a telephone interview.

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