First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, monoclonal antibody therapy, and additional resources
Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis is a skin growth caused by sun damage. It can turn into skin cancer, but this isn't common. Actinic keratoses, also called solar keratoses, are small red, brown, or skin-colored scaly patches. They are most common on the face, neck, hands, and forearms.
Your doctor can remove these growths by freezing or scraping them off or by putting medicines on them.
Actinic keratoses are small and noticeable red, brown, or skin-colored patches that don't go away. They most often occur on the head, neck, or hands but can be found on other areas of the body. Usually more than one is present. They may:
Actinic keratosis needs to be checked by a doctor, especially if the keratoses become painful, bleed, become open sores, become infected, or increase in size.
Actinic keratosis is diagnosed through a skin exam. Your doctor may use a bright light or magnifying lens to look for growths, moles, or lesions. The scalp is checked by parting the hair. If there is a chance of cancer, your doctor may take a sample of your skin and test (biopsy) it.
Your doctor may recommend one of these treatments:
Actinic keratosis may turn into skin cancer, but this isn't common. There is no way to find out whether actinic keratosis will progress to squamous cell carcinoma or how fast this might occur. Keratoses on the ear and lip are at the highest risk of developing into cancer because of how sensitive the ear and lip are to sun exposure.
You can help prevent actinic keratosis by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen when you are in the sun. You should also examine your skin for the condition and other suspicious growths once a month, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun.
Current as of:
November 15, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineAmy McMichael MD - Dermatology
Current as of: November 15, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.