Actinic keratoses (AKs): AKs form on skin that soaks up lots of sun over the years.
An actinic keratosis (ak-ti-nik ker-ah-TOE-sis), or AK, is a rough, dry, scaly patch or growth that forms on the skin. An AK forms when the skin is badly damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning. Most people get more than one AK. When you have more than one AK, you have actinic keratoses, or AKs.
AKs are very common and one of the most frequent reasons for seeing a dermatologist.
Anyone who has many AKs should be under a dermatologist’s care. Most people who have many AKs continue to get new AKs for life. AKs are considered precancerous. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
By seeing a dermatologist for checkups, the AKs can be treated before they become skin cancer. If skin cancer does develop, it can be caught early when treatment often cures skin cancer.
Learn more about actinic keratosis
Duncan KO, Geisse JK, Leffell DJ. “Epidermal and Appendageal Tumors.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al. editors. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed. United States of America, McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p.1007-14.
Rigel DS, Cockerell CJ, Carucci J et al. “Actinic Keratosis, Basal Cell Carcinoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.” In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini RP, et al. editors. Dermatology, 2nd ed. Spain, Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 1645-6.
Photograph used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.