Actinic Keratosis

An actinic keratosis (AK), also called a solar keratosis, is a scaly, rough growth on the skin caused by UV damage.

What is actinic keratosis?

An actinic keratosis (AK), also called a solar keratosis, is a scaly, rough growth on the skin caused by UV damage. The plural form, actinic keratoses, is often used because it is common to have several and numerous AKs. Skin specialists consider AKs to be precancer, which means they can develop into skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) if left untreated. AKs typically occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, chest, hands, and arms.

What causes actinic keratosis?

When ultraviolet (UV) rays hit our skin, they cause damage. When we’re young, in the beginning, the body can repair some of the damage. But over time as we age, that damage will accumulate, and it becomes harder and harder for the body to repair itself. If UV rays continue to hit sun-damaged skin, AKs may develop.

Actinic keratoses tend to develop in people with:

  • Fair skin
  • Significant sun exposure or a history of high sun exposure
  • A weakened immune system

They usually appear after the age of 40 but can appear much earlier if you have had more sun exposure over the years, get a lot of sunlight, or used tanning beds and sun lamps.

How can I prevent AKs?

Once sun damage has progressed to the point where actinic keratoses develop, new keratoses may appear even without further sun exposure. The best and most effective way to prevent new AKs is by sun protection and avoidance. Using sunscreen, hats, and clothing is essential in preventing new lesions and future skin cancer. There are topical treatment strategies that Dr. Naomi Brooks can tailor to your skin to help prevent AKs as well.

How are actinic keratoses treated?

Treatment options include cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen), topical creams (5-fluorouracil or imiquimod), and levulon with photodynamic therapy (blue light).

Request a consultation in Boise, Idaho

If you have an abnormal growth or would like to learn more about actinic keratosis, Boise-based dermatologist Dr. Brooks would be happy to see you in a consultation. Contact Boise Dermatology & Medspa in Idaho online or by phone at (208) 888-0660.


Treatments for Actinic Keratosis


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