• Actinic Keratosis



    Actinic keratosis (AK) is abnormal growth of the skin. It results in a rough, scaly, or crusted patch of skin. AK tends to occur on sun-damaged skin.
    AK is not cancer but it can sometimes change to squamous cell skin cancer. Treatment includes removing lesions and monitoring for skin cancer.
    Actinic Keratosis
    si55551329 96472 1
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    AK is caused by long term excessive sun exposure. Ultraviolet rays from sunlight can cause skin damage. Over time, this damage can cause abnormal growth of the skin, which may lead to AK or other disorders.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of AK include:
    • Fair skin color
    • Easy sunburning
    • Extra exposure to sun
    • Occupations or pastimes in sunlight such as farmer, lifeguard, or athlete in outdoor sports


    Symptoms may include:
    • Spotted or smeared red, thinning skin
    • Rough, scaly, or crusted patches


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    A biopsy of the lesion may be done. The skin will be closely examined for cancer.


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. AK lesions increase your risk of skin cancer. The lesions are usually removed to decrease this risk. The lesion will also be monitored for signs of cancer.
    The exact method of removal will be determined by the number and location of the lesions.
    AK may be removed with:
    • Surgery
    • Cryosurgery
    • Chemical peel
    • Photodynamic therapy
    Medications may also be applied over the skin. More than one treatment may be required. Over time, the medication will remove the AK. Medication may be an option for people with multiple AKs.
    The procedures and medications will remove AK and allow healthy skin to grow in its place. Most treatments have some risk of scarring or discoloration of the skin.


    To help reduce your chance of AK:
    • Avoid sun exposure.
    • Protect your skin when outdoors. Wear long sleeves, long pants or a long skirt. Use a wide-brimmed hat, especially during the middle of the day.
    • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.


    American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org

    American Osteopathic College of Dermatology http://www.aocd.org


    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca

    Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca


    Actinic keratosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 21, 2014. Accessed August 8, 2014.

    Actinic keratosis. The Skin Cancer Foundation website. Available at: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/actinic-keratosis. Accessed August 8, 2014.

    Jeffes EW III, Tang, EH. Actinic keratosis. Current treatment options. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2000;1(3):167-179.

    Rivers JK, Arlette J, Shear N, et al. Topical treatment of actinic keratoses with 3.0% diclofenac in 2.5% hyaluronan gel. Br J Dermatol. 2002;146(1):94-100.

    Stockfleth E, Meyer T, Benninghoff B, Christophers E. Successful treatment of actinic keratosis with imiquimod cream 5%: a report of six cases. Br J Dermatol. 2001;144(5):1050-1053.

    Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed October 20, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.