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What Are the Signs of Actinic Keratosis?

If you’ve noticed a rough, scaly bump or patch on your skin, you might be dealing with actinic keratosis. This condition that affects some 58 million Americans isn’t life-threatening, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

Considered precancerous, actinic keratosis leads to skin cancer in some cases. Addressing the signs early can help ensure that doesn’t happen.

Board-certified dermatologist Ali Hendi, MD, and our team of skin cancer specialists in Chevy Chase, Maryland, use the latest advances in skin medicine to analyze suspicious growths and lower your risk for complications. 

In this blog, we explore the basics of actinic keratosis, including common signs and ways we can help.

Actinic keratosis causes

Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, stems from damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds. When you’re exposed to UV radiation, it harms DNA cells in your skin. That damage can stimulate mutations that lead to premature aging and skin cancer. 

When actinic keratosis leads to skin cancer

The type of cancer that can develop from actinic keratosis is known as squamous cell carcinoma. It’s also the most common type of skin cancer. If actinic keratosis cells are left alone, they can grow excessively in the middle and outer layers of your skin. And that’s what results in squamous cell carcinoma. 

Other risk factors for squamous cell cancer include being prone to sunburns, having a weakened immune system, having scars or long-lasting wounds on your skin, and carrying the human papillomavirus (HPV). Being of older age and having pale skin may also raise your risk.

Signs of actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis symptoms can play out in a range of ways and different places on your skin. 

Common signs include:

The skin growth may appear brown, pink, or red, and itch, burn, or bleed easily. You could also develop smaller red or brown-edged bumps called keratotic nodules.

Actinic keratosis can show up on any skin area that’s had ample UV exposure, such as your face, ears, scalp, the backs of your hands, or your forearms. Signs that form on your lips are known as actinic cheilitis.

Getting the care you need

If you notice signs of actinic keratosis, our team can rule out or diagnose the condition through a comprehensive exam. If it turns out you do have actinic keratosis, minimally invasive removal can put an end to skin cancer before it starts. 

To learn more or schedule your exam, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, today.

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