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What is actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis consists of scaly, reddish-brown precancerous lesions that usually appear on areas of the body exposed most to the sun, such as the face, arms, legs, neck, and upper chest and back. The lesions are usually painless but may itch.

Because about 10% of these lesions may progress and transform into skin cancers, they should be diagnosed, evaluated, and monitored by a healthcare provider.

The development of actinic keratoses is an early warning sign of severe sun damage. Most common in people over age 40, this precancerous condition develops as a result of cumulative, extensive sun exposure and can lead to skin cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma. Actinic keratoses are responsible for more than 2 million visits to dermatologists each year in the United States. These lesions appear as scaly red/brown bumps on the face, ears, neck, lips and forearms or on the backs of the hands. These lesions may itch or feel tender, especially when exposed to sunlight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.