Actinic Keratosis Symptoms and Causes

Actinic keratosis causes

Symptoms include rough, scaly patches on the skin caused by years of sun exposure.

Incidence: Very Common
○ In one large study, actinic keratoses were seen in 49% of light skinned men over the age of 45 and 29% of women.

Actinic keratosis usually affects older adults but can be seen in the 20s and 30s with lots of sun or tanning bed exposure. Reducing sun exposure and daily sunscreen use will reduce the risk. Lesions are most common on the sun exposed areas like the face, lips, ears, back of hands, forearms, scalp, and neck. The rough, scaly skin patch enlarges slowly. In the early stages, the scale may come off and the lesion may look like it has gone only to recur again later.

Often, the lesions are slightly tender. Over time, the lesions can turn into a skin cancer, usually squamous cell carcinoma. Because they are precancerous they are usually removed as a precaution.

Causes of actinic keratosis: It usually develops in areas of skin that have been damaged by years of sun exposure. Actinic keratosis occurs when skin cells called keratinocytes start to grow abnormally, forming scaly, discolored spots.

What does actinic keratosis look like?

Actinic keratosis requires a medical diagnosis: Lesions usually present as small scaly rough areas on sun exposed skin. After a period where they may come and go, they subsequently become persistent. They can enlarge and eventually turn into skin cancer.

Actinic keratosis symptoms
Actinic keratosis identification
Actinic keratosis treatment

Treating Actinic Keratosis:

Self-care for actinic keratosis: We currently do not recommend any self-care treatments for actinic keratosis.

Our Clinical Treatment for Actinic Keratosis:

Because the appearance is non-specific, it is highly recommended you have suspicious lesions assessed by one of our board-certified dermatologist. Because they are potentially pre-cancerous they are usually removed as a precaution. [ Make an appointment }


Dermatology Associates of Seattle is a clinic facility, research center, testing laboratory, and pharmacy. Each of our patients receives individualized care to their specific needs with a complete and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment process. Connect with us today and start a conversation about how we can make both you and your skin happier and healthier.