An early warning sign of skin cancer is the development of an actinic
keratosis. Actinic keratoses are precancerous skin lesions that result
from chronic sun exposure. They are typically < 0.5cm in diameter,
pink or red in color and rough or scaly to the touch. They occur on sun-exposed
areas of the skin (face, scalp, ears, backs of hands or forearms). Actinic
keratoses may start as small, red, flat spots but grow larger and become
scaly or thick, if untreated. Sometimes they are easier to feel than to
see. There may be multiple lesions next to each other.
Early treatment of actinic keratoses may prevent their change to cancer.
These precancerous lesions affect more than 10 million Americans. People
with one actinic keratosis usually develop more. Up to 1% of these lesions
can develop into a squamous cell cancer.
Actinic keratoses are most common in people older than 40, but can also
appear in younger individuals with extensive sun exposure. Because they
can turn cancerous affected areas should be regularly examined and treated
by a primary care physician or dermatologist.
on an image for a larger view)
Pink scaly skin lesion on sun-damaged cheek.
| Multiple pink skin lesions on the back of a hand.
Microscopic view of an Actinic Keratoses