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.
The following photographs show signs of actinic keratoses (AKs).
If you see any of these signs on your own skin, you should see a dermatologist. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. People who have AKs also have a higher risk of getting other types of skin cancer. When found early, most skin cancers can be cured.
Most people who get AKs do not have any symptoms. They only notice changes to their skin. Symptoms can occur. A few symptoms to watch for are:
An AK can come and go. An AK can appear on the skin, remain for months, and then flake off and disappear. The skin can suddenly feel smooth. Many AKs re-appear in a few days to a few weeks. They often re-appear when the person goes outdoors without sun protection.
Even if an AK does not re-appear, you should see your dermatologist. AKs form when the top layer of skin is badly damaged. You can get more AKs. If the damage grows deeper, skin cancer can develop.
People who are most likely to get AKs have one or more of the following traits:
AKs usually appear after age 40. People who live in places that get intense sunlight all year, such as Florida and Southern California, may get AKs earlier. AKs also often appear much earlier in people who use tanning beds and sun lamps.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays cause AKs. Most people get exposed to UV rays from being outside during the day or using tanning beds.
You can prevent AKs by protecting your skin from the sun and never using tanning beds or sun lamps.
When UV rays hit our skin, the rays damage our skin. When we are young, the body can repair some of the damage. Over time, the damage accumulates, and the body is less able to repair itself. We eventually see UV-damaged skin. If UV rays continue to hit the skin, people get AKs.