Actinic keratosis is describes a flat patch of skin that appears brown or red, and scaly, due to damage from the sun. This is considered a precancerous growth on the skin. This article will share details as to why this condition develops, how to identify the symptoms and what to do in order to avoid cancer if you discover this condition on your skin.
Symptoms – A person who has developed this condition will notice a rough and dry skin lesion that begins as a flat and scaly patch. It may appear gray, pink or red or it may be the same color as the skin. This area of skin will have a rough feel to it as well when the fingers are run over the patch.
The affected patch of skin will be localized meaning it is contained in one area and is more common on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ears, scalp, back of the hands, and chest.
Causes – This skin condition is caused by overexposure to the sun possibly years before the discolored patch appears. Persons with light complexions or outdoor occupations are at higher risk.
Diagnosis – Observation of the discolored patch of skin by the person and a subsequent exam by a health care provider are needed for proper diagnosis. A physical examination and even biopsy may be required to rule out the presence of skin cancer.
Treatment – To prevent this lesion from growing into skin cancer, a physician may freeze the patch with liquid nitrogen or apply a cream such as 5-fluorouracil.
Other methods of treatment include burning (electrical cautery), curettage and electrodesiccation (scrapping the lesion away and using an electrical current to remove any remaining cells), or excising (cutting) the lesion. Lasers are beginning to be used in the treatment of actinic keratoses.
Emphasis should be placed on reducing sun exposure and check-ups are advised every 6 months due to possibility of new patches forming or becoming cancerous.
Actinic keratosis is typically benign (non-cancerous), but if you notice an area of roughness in a sun-exposed area of skin, then you should visit your doctor as this could be a pre-cancerous condition.