Actinic Keratosis

What is actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a skin condition that can become cancerous if left untreated. AKs usually appear on sun-exposed parts of the body and are more commonly found in people who sunburn easily. AKs can take many shapes. Some appear as patches of rough or scaly skin. They can be skin-colored, reddish-brown, or yellowish-black.

What should I know about AK?
It takes a trained professional to diagnose AK and to distinguish it from other skin conditions. Anyone who thinks he or she might have one of these lesions should consult a health care provider.

Be informed about AK
Anyone who has been treated for AK should have his or her skin screened yearly by a doctor or health care provider. People with a history of this condition are at a higher risk for developing new AK lesions or skin cancer. In addition, they should protect themselves from the damaging effects of excessive sun exposure by staying out of the direct sun during the peak hours of 10 AM to 4 PM and using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The sunscreen should provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays (UV stands for ultraviolet). Ideally, sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to exposure and reapplied every 2 hours while outdoors, even on cloudy days. Covering areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun with clothing is also recommended.

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