Actinic keratosis (AK), also known as solar keratosis, by far the most common precancer, is the result of prolonged exposure to sunlight. It is a small crusty or scaly bump or horn that arises on or beneath the skin surface. The base may be light or dark, tan, pink, red, a combination of these or the same color as your skin. The scale or crust is dry, rough and is often recognized by touch rather than sight. Occasionally it itches or produces a pricking or tender sensation. It can also become inflamed and surrounded by redness. In rare instances, actinic keratoses can bleed.
AKs are most likely to appear on the face, lips, ears, scalp, neck, backs of the hands and forearms, shoulders and back – the parts of the body most often exposed to sunshine. Treatment includes cryotherapy (freezing), topical chemotherapy (applying a cream or lotion), chemical peeling, laser curettage, photodynamic therapy (a chemical applied to the area prior to exposure to a light source), or other dermatologic surgical procedures.
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