Actinic Keratosis

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There is no single factor more responsible for cosmetic and medical skin conditions than sun exposure, whether it’s from being outside too often or from using a tanning bed. Repeated overexposure to UV rays without proper protection, such as sunscreen, can lead to a wide variety of conditions, including actinic keratosis (AKs).

When patients are young, if UV rays damage the skin, the body can repair the damage. As patients get older, it becomes harder and harder for the skin to recover from UV damage. When UV rays contact previously-damaged skin, AKs form, which are thick, rough, scaly, dry patches of skin.

Who is at risk for developing AKs?

Anyone who has prolonged sun exposure is more likely to develop actinic keratosis. Regions where people spend a lot of time in the sun, such as California and Florida, have more patients with AKs. Other common characteristics of people with AKs include:

  • Light/fair skin
  • Albinism
  • Blond/light hair color
  • Light-colored eyes: blue, green hazel
  • Skin that freckles easily when in the sun
  • Skin that burns easily when in the sun
  • 40 years of age or older
  • Weakened immune system, from a major surgery, another condition/disease or HIV/AIDS
  • Exposure to substances that contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), like coal or tar