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What Is Actinic Keratosis?

Find out what actinic keratosis is from board-certified dermatologist Ahmet Altiner in this Howcast video.


Actinic keratosis are most commonly thought as precancerous lesions that may lead to squamous cell carcinoma. They often happen on sun-exposed areas in Caucasians later in life. They may appear as red scaly bumps, but oftentimes they may look exactly like normal skin but feel very rough.

The best way to determine if you have actinic keratosis or not is to close your eyes and put your fingertips on sun exposed areas. If you feel persistently rough spots, it is very important to see you dermatologist to make sure you don't have actinic keratosis.

Actinic keratosis may turn into squamous cell carcinoma, but studies differ as to what percentage of the time this happens. Some studies show that it's less than 1%. Some studies show that as high as 10% of the cases of actinic keratosis can lead to a squamous cell carcinoma.

A biopsy is oftentimes not needed to make a diagnosis. A dermatologist can make this diagnosis just by examining you.

Treatment of actinic keratosis will depend on how many lesions you have. If you have one or two, simple spraying with liquid nitrogen is oftentimes all that is needed. If you have more, certain types of treatments may need to be used to get the under control.

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