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Actinic keratoses are superficial skin lesions which can be seen in skin areas which have been exposed to strong sunshine over a long period of time. They are typically seen as one or more small red or brownish patches of skin which are often times scaly on the surface. These feel rough when touched with the tip of a finger. Sometimes they can develop thicker scales or even horn-like structures. Some typical areas where actinic keratoses can appear are: the face, the chest, the back of the hands, the ears (in men) and the scalp (in balding men).
Fair-skinned individuals who have been exposed to the sun’s UV rays during many years (e.g., worked outdoors or lived in sunny countries) have a larger risk of developing actinic keratoses. They are caused when the skin’s local immune system is weakened and no longer able to repair the cell damage triggered by prolonged UV radiation.
Actinic keratosis are generally considered to be precancerous and have the potential of developing into squamous cell carcinomas. Therefore they should be treated.
Solitary lesions( photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) are often treated with liquid nitrogen spray, destroying the abnormal cells by freezing them.
In cases in which larger areas with several actinic keratoses are present( photos 6, 7), different treatment alternatives are available. In these cases they can be treated with different creams that either stimulate the local immune response, make cancerous cells sensitive to light or contain drugs used in chemotherapy.