Long-term exposure to UV light from the sun’s rays can cause precancerous blemishes called actinic keratosis. Without treatment, these lesions can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. However, with the appropriate skincare, you can prevent these marks and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
What Does Actinic Keratosis Look Like?
These marks usually affect skin exposed to sunlight, such as the forearms, hands, neck, shoulders, scalp, ears, lips, and face. These spots can be as small as a pencil point or grow to a diameter of up to 1 inch. The color of actinic keratosis may range from silver-gray or brown to tan, pink, red, or the same color as your skin. The mark will feel rough, scaly, or bumpy and be slightly raised or flat. You may be able to feel these lesions rather than see them.
Who Is at a Higher Risk?
Some people have an elevated risk for actinic keratosis and skin cancer. This group includes individuals who:
- – Have red hair
- – Have many irregular moles
- – Live in a sunny location like the South
- – Have pale skin
- – Frequently sunburn
- – Go outside without SPF sunscreen
- – Use tanning beds
Knowing your risk can help you shield your skin from damage.
How Do I Prevent and Treat Actinic Keratosis?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you should check your skin for actinic keratosis and other changes that signify skin cancer. Once a month, go over your body from head to toe and report areas of concern to your dermatologist. You should have a professional skin exam once a year. If you have actinic keratosis, your dermatologist may recommend more frequent visits. You should also protect your skin with SPF 30 whenever you spend time in the sun. Seek shade or stay indoors when the UV rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.