What is actinic keratosis
Actinic keratoses (also called solar keratoses) often appear as scaly patches. They can vary greatly in size, shape and colour, but are usually less than 1cm across with a scaly white surface. However, it can be red, pink, skin coloured, or a combination of these. The patch might feel rough and sandpapery, which often makes it easier to feel than see.
Actinic keratoses develop as a result of long term sun exposure and are a precursor to skin cancer. They can be found anywhere on the body, but some of the most common sites are those regularly exposed to the sun including the face, scalp, lips, forearms and backs of hands.
Anyone can have sun damaged skin but if you are fair skinned, burn easily in the sun, use sun beds or have spent a lot of time outdoors you are at particularly high risk of actinic keratosis. People who have a weakened immune system, for example due to organ transplant, are also more at risk.
Actinic keratoses may regress and may develop into skin cancer but it is impossible to tell which patches have the potential to become cancerous so it is important to treat all actinic keratoses. A range of treatment options are available for actinic keratoses and it is important to discuss these options with your healthcare professional prior to receiving treatment. Actinic keratoses can be cleared with field directed therapy including topical treatments and lesion specific therapy.