An actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous patch or growth of skin that generally occurs after frequent UV exposure, whether that exposure be from the sun or from tanning beds. They are called precancerous because they have the potential to progress to a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
AK’s appear as rough, scaly patches, much like sandpaper. They can be as small as a millimeter; however, they have the potential to grow. AK’s are sometimes difficult to notice because they can be dark, light, red, or even skin color. It is therefore critical that you consult a dermatologist to make a diagnosis.
AKs are commonly treated via cryosurgery (the use of extreme cold to destroy the precancerous cells) or electrodessication and curettage (removing the precancerous skin cells and treating the area with electricity to prevent recurrence). Topical chemotherapies and other prescriptions medications can also be used to treat AK’s.