Actinic keratoses, which are also called solar keratoses, are small, red, scaly, rough skin patches. They typically are found on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun like the face, ears, chest, arms and backs of the hands, and they can develop into skin cancer.
About ten percent of actinic keratoses develop into skin cancer with squamous cell cancer being the most common type. A few actinic keratoses can develop into basal cell cancer.
Actinic keratoses can take a variety of forms. Some can be cutaneous horns in which the skin is raised and thick and resembles small horns.
Actinic cheilitis is a form typically found on the lower lip. In this condition, the skin is scaly, dry and may be cracked. It can develop into an aggressive form of squamous cell carcinoma if it isn’t treated.
Who is most likely to develop actinic keratoses?
Fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time outdoors are the most likely to develop actinic keratoses. They are most common in people who live in equatorial regions.
Men are more likely to develop them than are women because they generally spend more time outdoors than do women. They also tend to use less protection than women do.
What causes actinic keratoses?
Actinic keratoses are caused by prolonged and chronic exposure to the sun. Since the damage caused by the sun is cumulative, even a brief time in the sun is harmful.
The total amount of time spent in the sun builds up over the years, so actinic keratoses are usually seen in people who are over 50 years old, but younger people can develop them, too.
Regardless of the weather, people who go outdoors will be exposed to the sun in some way. 70 to 80 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays can pass through clouds so cloudy days aren’t safe.
UV rays also bounce off reflective surfaces like snow or sand which increases people’s exposure to them.
The lamps in tanning salons can produce UV rays that are even more intense than those produced by the sun. Consequently, indoor tanning can also cause actinic keratoses. Occasionally, they can also be caused by extensive exposure to industrial chemicals or to X-rays.
People with compromised immune systems are less able to fight off the radiation that can cause actinic keratoses.
For more information, contact the Center for Dermatology today to make your appointment.