Welcome to the newest addition of our Skin Condition of the Month blog series. Although summer is still a ways away, we wanted to express the importance of year round skin cancer protection and awareness. Specifically, we wanted to focus on actinic keratosis, which is a very common precursor to common types of skin cancer. Our board-certified dermatology providers thought it would be helpful to answer some commonly asked questions about actinic keratosis (sometimes referred to as pre-cancer) including what people should look for specifically when trying to identify it on their skin.
Question #1: What does actinic keratosis look like?
Actinic Keratosis typically takes the form of a rough, scaly patch on the surface of the skin, usually less than 1 inch in diameter that is sometimes reddish or pinkish in color. They often appear on areas of the skin that tend to get the most sun exposure. They may appear anywhere on the body but can commonly form on the face and forehead, as well as the ears, the scalp, the hands, neck, or lips.
Question #2: Are certain people more at risk of developing actinic keratosis than others?
Yes, certain factors can indeed increase someone’s risk of actinic keratosis, and in turn skin cancer. These factors include:
- Having a lighter complexion and lighter eyes (green or blue)
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having a history of sun burns or excessive sun exposure
- Being above the age of 40
Question #3: Is actinic keratosis always a precursor to skin cancer?
Not always. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), of the roughly 40 million cases of actinic keratosis that are diagnosed each year, between 5% – 10% will develop into a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. Still, it’s always best to be proactive and speak to a board-certified dermatologist or Physician Assistant specializing in Dermatology to properly diagnose anything abnormal that you detect on your skin.
It may seem odd to discuss a topic like this so early in the year, but it’s a fact that there is no such thing as a bad time to think about the health and wellness of your skin. For more information on actinic keratosis and our available dermatology treatments, contact Dermatology Associates of Atlanta to schedule an appointment today. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more skin care tips and practice updates.