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Actinic keratosis

What is it?

The actinic keratosis are lesions that arise in areas of skin continually exposed to the sun light and are the result of the cumulative effect of ultraviolet radiation on the skin for a lifetime. People with light skin and advanced age are the most affected.

However, the disease is not a privilege of the elderly and appears also in middle-aged people who suffered intense and repeated sun exposure.

The solar keratoses are included among the pre-malignant skin diseases and they may eventually turn into a skin cancer.

Characteristics and symptoms

The lesions appear mainly on the face, scalp of bald men and back of the arms and hands. May have several aspects: red and scaly patches, dark spots that are slightly elevated or rough and very hardened lesions.

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The number of lesions varies from a single lesion to areas of skin completely coated with keratosis. The scales that cover the hardened keratoses may come off due to injury but tend to form again.

When the transformation in skin cancer occurs, the keratoses become higher, there may be redness at its base and bleed easily following minor trauma.


Because they can turn into skin cancer, actinic keratosis should be treated. The treatment is done through the destruction of the lesions.

Chemical cauterization, electrocoagulation, cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen, photodynamic therapy and imiquimod are some of the treatments available, which should be indicated by a dermatologist after the evaluation of each case.

Related articles

- Seborrheic keratosis
- Basal cell carcinoma (the most frequent skin cancer)

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