Actinic keratoses

  Actinic keratoses are precancerous growths on the skin caused by
  excessive or frequent sun exposure. These lesions appear as rough, dry
  patches or growths on the skin and can eventually progress to skin
  cancer if not treated.

Risk factors

Actinic keratoses typically develop over time and are therefore most
  common in people over the age of 40. However, younger adults and
  teenagers may be at risk, especially those who deliberately expose
  their skin to the sun for prolonged periods or use tanning beds.

  Factors that can increase your risk of developing actinic keratoses
  include:

  • Having fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair
  • Long-term daily sun exposure (such as people who work
  outdoors)
  • Multiple, severe sunburns early in life

Symptoms

 Signs of actinic keratoses include rough, scaly patches on the skin.
  They are usually limited to one area of the skin and appear on
  sun-exposed areas such as the face, scalp, back of the hands, or
  chest. They may be gray, pink, red, or the same color as the skin. It
  may be easier to feel them than to see them.

  Any rough patches should be examined by a dermatologist to prevent
  precancerous growths from going untreated.

Treatment

  Although actinic keratosis itself is harmless, it may grow into skin
  cancer if left untreated. Removing the growth is usually effective in
  preventing skin cancer. Actinic keratoses may be removed by the same
  types of procedures that are used to treat skin cancer, including
  cutting away the lesion, using electricity to kill the cancerous
  cells, or freezing them. They may also be treated with photodynamic
  therapy, a process that uses a combination of a drug, known as a
  photosensitizer, and a specific type of light. When photosensitizers
  are activated by a specific wavelength of light, they produce a type
  of oxygen that kills the nearby cells.

  Topical creams containing 5-fluorouracil or imiquimod may be
  prescribed to people who have multiple lesions. Chemical peels, laser
  resurfacing, or other skin procedures may sometimes be used in actinic
  keratosis treatment.

Prevention

  To reduce your risk of actinic keratoses and skin cancer, wear
  protective clothing outdoors, limit your sun exposure, and try to
  avoid the sun during mid-day, when ultraviolet light is strongest. Use
  high-quality sunscreen year-round, and avoid tanning beds.