Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but there are still many questions surrounding it. One popular question among patients is whether actinic keratosis, a scaly patch on the skin, is a form of skin cancer. Here, we’ll discuss what actinic keratosis is and the next steps for patients who are diagnosed with it. 

What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis forms after accumulated sun exposure over many years. It develops slowly, generally becoming visible in patients over the age of 40. Actinic keratosis may appear anywhere that has been exposed to UV rays (most commonly the face, ears, lips, scalp, neck, forearms, and the backs of the hands). 

You can identify actinic keratosis as a scaly, rough, or dry patch that is typically smaller than an inch in diameter. It may be flat or slightly raised off of the skin, and it can vary in color, ranging from brown to red or pink. To be sure whether or not a patch is an actinic keratosis, receive an exam from a skin cancer expert, like one of the physicians at The Bowman Institute. 

Actinic Keratosis and Skin Cancer

Actinic keratosis is considered precancerous. So, while an actinic keratosis isn’t life-threatening on its own, if left untreated, it can develop into potentially dangerous skin cancer. 

When actinic keratosis is identified and treated early, it can be fully removed with no complications. Left untreated, actinic keratosis may develop into squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer can be dangerous if it’s left untreated. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer and impacts hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. 

If you have signs of actinic keratosis, schedule an appointment at The Bowman Institute today. We offer comprehensive skin exams and leading skin cancer treatment, including non-surgical treatments for pre-cancers. Contact us today to learn more.