Skin Cancer

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Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis (Pre-cancer)
Many people have actinic keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, on their skin. This abnormality develops slowly. AK are usually small, about an eighth to a quarter of an inch in size. You may see a few at a time, and they can also disappear and later return.

Are they dangerous?
Yes. An AK can be the first step in developing skin cancer. So it is called either a “precursor” of cancer or a “precancerous condition.”

What does an AK look like?
It is a scaly or crusty bump on the skin’s surface, and is usually dry and rough. An actinic keratosis is often noticed more by touch than sight. It may be the same color as your skin or it may be light, dark, tan, pink, red, or a combination of colors. It can be flat or raised and rough. It can itch or produce a prickling or tender sensation.

Do they hurt?
This skin abnormality can become inflamed and be encircled with redness. Rarely, they will bleed.

Where do they show up?
Usually they show up on the parts of your body that have received the most lifetime sun exposure—for example, on the face, ears, scalp, neck, backs of hands, forearms, shoulders, and lips.

Some of the same treatments used for non-melanoma cancers are used for actinic keratosis to ensure that the AK does not develop into a cancerous lesion. Click here to read about treatment options.