Take care of your skin and be vigilant to early warning signs like solar keratosis. Actinic keratosis shows up as a scaly, rough patch of skin. It develops after several years of sun exposure. This type of keratosis is also known as actinic keratosis and can lead to more advanced forms of pre-cancer, in the forms of other keratoses. The impacted area slowly gets bigger and doesn't usually accompany additional signs or other symptoms.


You can use the following symptoms to determine if the scaly skin you are worried about is solar keratosis:

  • Burning or itching is a precursor to the breakout
  • Variations in color, including red, brown or pink
  • Dry, scaly patch of skin
  • Less than 1 inch
  • Flat or slightly raised spot on your skin
  • Sometimes, a hard, or warty appearance

Appearance of Carcinomas

Reducing Risk by Avoiding Direct Sunlight

Although not of immediate concern, solar keratosis lesions can sometimes morph into more severe conditions. The best way to reduce your risk of getting, spreading or worsening actinic keratosis lies in minimizing your exposure to the sun exposure and its harmful ultraviolet rays.

Be extra careful of your lips, face, scalp, ears, hands, neck and forearms. These are areas frequently impacted the most by direct sunlight.



When Should I See a Doctor?

This is a great time to err on the side of caution. See your doctor or dermatologist as soon as you have a concern. Solar keratosis is difficult to distinguish from advanced precancerous or cancerous spots. Ask your doctor to examine new lesions, especially if they persist, get bigger or bleed.

In the meantime, frequently examine your skin, especially in the summer months. Note enlarging freckles, bumps or moles, particularly on the neck, ears, and face.




Scientists aren't sure why some people are more prone to solar keratosis. However, it's the most frequent type of precancerous skin lesion. It develops on skin that is exposed to frequent sunlight, or other sources of UV light, such as tanning bins. If you experience extensive X-ray exposure, it causes solar keratosis in rare instances.




Generally, getting early treatment for solar keratosis can resolve the issue. However, it does tend to recur, so remain vigilant and return for additional treatment in case of a recurrence.

If you don't receive treatment, some cases of solar keratosis progress to become squamous cell carcinoma. This is a type of skin cancer that isn't fatal when treated early.



Use Sunscreen

Protect your skin with lots of sunscreen to lower your risk of developing actinic keratoses. Before stepping outside, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen on SPF 15 or greater. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests a water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or above.

Use the sunscreen with lip balm on your lips. Reapply it often to counteract the effects of water or sweat.




Cover Up

If you love the sunshine or live in the tropics, it's hard to avoid the sun and maintain your lifestyle. If you have to be out in the sun, cover up. Tightly woven, light-colored clothing on your arms and legs provides protection and block out more UV rays.

A wide-brimmed hat may not scream fashion sensation, but it gives you more coverage than a baseball cap or tennis visor. Look for outdoor gear specifically designed to protect your skin.





Men have to be particularly careful of exposure if they are bald or have bald spots on their head. Actinic keratoses can form on the forehead or scalp area if exposed to too much sunlight.

Unfortunately, the degree of baldness is also a risk factor, and men with severe hair loss are seven times more likely to get more solar keratoses.



Skin Pigmentation

The amount of melanin in your skin determines your skin color. Those with lighter color skin are more at risk for solar keratosis.

Fair-skinned individuals experience a higher occurrence of solar keratoses than olive skinned individuals. AKs are rare in dark-skinned people. If you have fair skin or sunburn easily, take extra precautions.



Weakened Immune System

If your immune defenses have been compromised due to AIDS, cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants or other factors, it's more difficult to battle the harmful effects of UV radiation. This can make you more vulnerable to actinic keratoses. Be aware that frequent UV exposure also suppresses the immune system, making it harder for your body to heal the associated damage.



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