Distinguishing Seborrheic Keratosis From Actinic Keratosis

March 23, 2012


There are several things that distinguish seborrheic keratosis from actinic keratosis. To distinguish the two, a brief summary of the similarities between the two types of keratosis is warranted. Both types of keratosis are benign skin tumors and they are also quite common, more so among people aged 40 years and above. There are however several key differences between the two types of keratosis.

Seborrheic keratosis is characterized by lesions that appear on peoples’ skin that resemble warts and are very common among the elderly. Seborrheic keratosis is not known to develop into skin cancer. The main difference of these two conditions is that actinic keratosis has the potential of becoming cancerous. It develops into a condition known as squamous cell carcinoma, which is an invasive skin cancer.

Both forms of keratosis are found to be prevalent in areas where people are exposed to the sun for extended periods of time each day. As a result, the lesions are known to form on areas that are exposed most of the time such as the face, neck, and hands. The main cause of seborrheic keratosis is not known for sure but actinic keratosis is known to be caused by overexposure to the sun. Actinic keratosis is said to be brought about by mutations in the DNA triggered by ultraviolet radiation. The most common source of ultraviolet light is the sun. People with a history of excessive exposure to the sun and who have conditions such as elastosis and telangectasias are highly probable to suffer from actinic keratosis as well.

Actinic keratosis is more prevalent in Caucasians and other light-skinned people. Actinic keratosis is more prevalent in men. On the other hand, seborrheic keratosis occurs equally to people of all skin colors and tones. It also occurs equally between men and women. There have been suggestions that actinic keratosis is more common in men because they are more likely to have outdoor occupations. No study has been carried out yet to determine the accuracy of this theory.

Actinic keratosis starts with formation of rough, inconspicuous spots that are less than a square inch in area. The spots then develop into scaly plaques with a base that has a distinctive reddish color. They are usually flat or slightly raised. The formation of seborrheic keratosis is significantly different. Notably, seborrheic keratosis involves blockage of pores which prevents hair growth in the affected area. Actinic keratosis does not affect hair growth. Actinic keratosis is potentially cancerous and requires treatment in the early stages. On the other hand seborrheic keratosis is fairly harmless and cosmetic treatment is usually enough.


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