Actinic keratosis is commonly referred to solar keratosis or senile keratosis. This type of keratosis is common among people who are exposed to the sun for prolonged durations. The condition is caused by over-exposure to the ultraviolet spectrum of light which is most abundant in sunlight. Actinic keratosis has the highest probability of developing into a squamous cell carcinoma which is cancerous. For this reason it should be treated as soon as it develops.
As a person is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time, one or several bumps appear that are scaly and crusty. It then over time grows taller and eventually forms wart-like areas. These may range anywhere from 2-6 millimeters in diameter and are usually reddish. Actinic keratosis growths can also be tan, pink, red or any combination of these colors. The top part of the growth is often white or yellowish in color and has a rough texture. This type of keratosis appears only in areas that are sun-exposed especially the face and neck. Sometimes actinic keratosis may occur on ears, scalp, chest, hands and lips.
Actinic keratosis is most prevalent in people whose activities lead them to prolonged durations of exposure to the sun. It is more prevalent on light skinned people than their darker skinned counterparts. Other vulnerable people to this kind of keratosis are those who have weakened immune systems such as people who have undergone organ transplants. There are also patients who are treated with ultraviolet light such as psoriasis patients. The skin may at first become wrinkled, discolored and mottled from sun exposure. On continued exposure, keratosis usually begins to form.
Actinic keratosis is a significant type since it is a precancerous (premalignant) condition and can become skin cancer if unchecked. Relatively few of them develop into cancer and it takes years for them to become cancerous. When the keratosis undergoes a malignant change, it develops into a cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma mentioned earlier. This type of cancer can also be caused by other things apart from keratosis and has the potential to spread to other areas. Squamous cell carcinoma that has developed on an area where there was actinic keratosis does not spread to other areas.
Many times people diagnosed with this type of keratosis often do not recall anytime they were exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time. This is because it takes years for the condition to develop and the exposure that eventually led to this condition may have happened many years in the past.
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