Learn About Actinic Keratosis

What is the definition of Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is a small, rough, raised area on your skin. Often this area has been exposed to the sun over a long period of time.

Some actinic keratoses may develop into a type of skin cancer.

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What are the alternative names for Actinic Keratosis?

Solar keratosis; Sun-induced skin changes - keratosis; Keratosis - actinic (solar); Skin lesion - actinic keratosis

What are the causes of Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is caused by exposure to sunlight.

You are more likely to develop it if you:

  • Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair
  • Had a kidney or other organ transplant
  • Take medicines that suppress the immune system
  • Spend a lot of time each day in the sun (for example, if you work outdoors)
  • Had many severe sunburns early in life
  • Are older
What are the symptoms of Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is usually found on the face, scalp, back of the hands, chest, or places that are often in the sun.

  • The skin changes begin as flat and scaly areas. They often have a white or yellow crusty scale on top.
  • The growths may be gray, pink, red, or the same color as your skin. Later, they may become hard and wart-like or gritty and rough.
  • The affected areas may be easier to feel than see.
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What are the current treatments for Actinic Keratosis?

Some actinic keratoses become squamous cell skin cancer. Have your provider look at all skin growths as soon as you find them. Your provider will tell you how to treat them.

Growths may be removed by:

  • Burning (electrical cautery)
  • Scraping away the lesion and using electricity to kill any remaining cells (called curettage and electrodesiccation)
  • Cutting the tumor out and using stitches to place the skin back together (called excision)
  • Freezing (cryotherapy, which freezes and kills the cells)

If you have many of these skin growths, your doctor may recommend:

  • A special light treatment called photodynamic therapy
  • Chemical peels
  • Skin creams, such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and imiquimod
Who are the top Actinic Keratosis Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

Ruhr University Bochum

Bochum, NW, DE 44791

Eggert Stockfleth is in Bochum, Germany. Stockfleth is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Actinic Keratosis. They are also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Actinic Keratosis, Squamous Cell Skin Carcinoma, Warts, and Basal Cell Skin Cancer.

Highly rated in

Universität Witten Herdecke

Witten, NW, DE 58455

Thomas Dirschka is in Witten, Germany. Dirschka is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Actinic Keratosis. He is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Actinic Keratosis, Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Rosacea, and Squamous Cell Skin Carcinoma.

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Highly rated in

Klinikum Vest

Recklinghausen, NW, DE 

Rolf-markus Szeimies is in Recklinghausen, Germany. Szeimies is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Actinic Keratosis. They are also highly rated in 4 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Actinic Keratosis, Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Primary Localized Cutaneous Amyloidosis, and Bowen's Disease.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Actinic Keratosis?

A small number of these skin growths turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

When should I contact a medical professional for Actinic Keratosis?

Call your provider if you see or feel a rough or scaly spot on your skin, or if you notice any other skin changes.

How do I prevent Actinic Keratosis?

The best way to lower your risk for actinic keratosis and skin cancer is to learn how to protect your skin from sun and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Things you can do to lower your exposure to sunlight include:

  • Wear clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
  • Try to avoid being in the sun during midday, when ultraviolet light is most intense.
  • Use high-quality sunscreens, preferably with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of at least 30. Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB light.
  • Apply sunscreen before going out into the sun, and reapply often -- at least every 2 hours while in the sun.
  • Use sunscreen year-round, including in the winter.
  • Avoid sun lamps, tanning beds, and tanning salons.

Other things to know about sun exposure:

  • Sun exposure is stronger in or near surfaces that reflect light, such as water, sand, snow, concrete, and areas painted white.
  • Sunlight is more intense at the beginning of the summer.
  • Skin burns faster at higher altitudes.
Actinic keratosis on the arm
Actinic keratosis - close-up
Actinic keratosis on the forearms
Actinic keratosis on the scalp
Actinic keratosis - ear
What are the latest Actinic Keratosis Clinical Trials?
PDT Versus the Combination of Jessner's Solution and 35% TCA for Treatment of Actinic Keratoses on Upper Extremities: A Randomized Controlled Split-arm Trial
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Photodynamic Therapy-Induced Immune Modulation: Part III
What are the Latest Advances for Actinic Keratosis?
Daylight-PDT: everything under the sun.
Ablative Fractional Laser-assisted Low-irradiance Photodynamic Therapy for Treatment of Actinic Keratoses in Organ Transplant Recipients: A Prospective, Randomized, Intraindividual Controlled Trial.
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Topical Pharmacotherapy for Actinic Keratoses in Older Adults.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : November 10, 2020
Published By : Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Actinic keratosis: diagnosis and treatment. www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/actinic-keratosis-treatment. Updated February 12 , 2021. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Dinulos JGH. Premalignant and malignant nonmelanoma skin tumors. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.

Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR. Pigmentation. In: Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR, eds. Dermatology: An Illustrated Colour Text. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 42.

Soyer HP, Rigel DS, McMeniman E. Actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 108.