Actinic keratosis are lesions that occur on the skin due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. It usually occurs among people who are constantly exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time. This is because sunlight is the most common source of ultraviolet light. Actinic keratosis are the earliest lesions that are identifiable that can eventually develop to skin cancer. This cancer is known as squamous cell carcinoma. Actinic keratosis are diagnosed to be present in 14% of all visitors to dermatologists which makes them quite common.
Actinic keratosis are usually more prevalent in fair skinned people due to the unavailability of enough melanin to protect them from sunlight damage. In the northern hemisphere, only 11-25 percent of the adult population has these keratosis as opposed to 40-60 percent of Adult Australians. Studies indicate that in every one thousand cases of actinic keratosis a year, only one develops into cancer. Also 5-20% of actinic keratosis that are untreated develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
The most common source of these keratosis is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, however, arsenic and polycyclic hydrocarbon exposure may also lead to the condition. Studies on whether sunscreen can reduce the occurrence of actinic keratosis have not been extensively conducted. Two of them however have demonstrated that sunscreen can prevent their occurrence. It is generally not easy for the patients to recall the time they got exposed long enough to develop actinic keratosis. This is because the exposure that may have led to the condition may have happened a long time ago.
These keratosis are sometimes not very distinguishable on physical examination as they may be poorly demarcated. They are however most common on sun-exposed regions such as the face, neck, ears and balding scalps. Sometimes physical examination cannot clearly show the condition and dermatologists combine the use of touch to help them out. This is because the keratosis have a coarse texture, when the diagnosis is still not clear, a skin biopsy may be carried out.
Treatments of keratosis are possible by use of liquid nitrogen, trichloroacetic acid, electrodessication and curettage, enzyme treatments and CO2 laser. When actinic keratosis form on a person’s skin it is highly recommended that they seek medical attention. This is because this form of keratosis can lead to skin cancer. They are however not prone to spreading even if they develop into squamous cell carcinoma which is cancerous. There is still time to correct this since even when the condition becomes cancerous, treatments are also available.
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