The technical term for these is actinic keratoses or solar keratoses. These are not a cancer but are pre-malignant, meaning they have the potential to turn into a squamous cell cancer.

They may start as a small pink patch. This will later develop a slight crust that feels scaly or rough to the touch. Some may be hard to see and only detectable by feel. There can be just one, or a few, or many. This depends on the skin type of the person, the amount of sun exposure they have had over their entire life, and on their genetic heritage. The commonest site for AKs is the face, although they will basically occur anywhere on sun damaged skin.

Only a small percentage of AKs ever do change into SCCs, so their significance lies more in the fact that they give us a warning that a person has had a lot of ultraviolet damage and is therefore at risk for skin cancers in general.

Aktinic keratoses can be treated by freezing, or by using creams on the whole face, or by photodynamic therapy.


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