Actinic keratoses (plural of actinic keratosis) are very common growths that arise
from the epidermis (the top layer of the skin). They are extremely common in fair-
skinned individuals and usually occur on the face, scalp and hands. They are directly
related to sun exposure.
Actinic keratoses are considered to be "pre-cancerous" skin lesions in that they
have a small risk of becoming skin cancers. Lesions are composed of "atypical" skin
cells that have been damaged by sunlight and contain mutations in their DNA.
Actinic keratoses can rarely become squamous cell carcinomas, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer. The rate of transformation of an individual actinic keratosis to squamous cell carcinoma has estimated to be approximately 1% or less per lesion over a 10 year period. The risk is more significant when individuals have many actinic keratoses.
Several treatment options exist for actinic keratoses. These include: