Actinic Keratosis

The first time I was told by a dermatologist that I had Actinic Keratosis I thought I had a serious disease and was frightened! What a nasty and scary name for the rough and reddish spots on my face and back of my hands…that seemed to appear as I have aged.  I am not sure if I prefer the terminology “pre-cancer” spots but that is basically what these unsightly spots are.  Actinic Keratosis, also known as AKs are more common among fair skin individuals….of which I am!  I am a natural redhead with freckles and “wherever the sun hits….I get a freckle!”

Like many people in their 50’s – few of us in our generation used sun screen as a young child or teen, and many –like myself- even resorted to baby oil using a record album with tin foil reflecting the sun ONTO our  faces!  In my 30’s I even used tanning beds on a regular basis… especially in the long Vermont winters!

What exactly is ACTINIC KERATOSIS?

An actinic keratosis, also known as a solar keratosis, is a scaly or crusty growth (lesion). It most often appears on the bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands and forearms, shoulders, neck or any other areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun. You’ll most often see the plural, “keratoses,” because there is seldom just one.

In the beginning, actinic keratoses are frequently so small that they are recognized by touch rather than sight. It feels as if you were running a finger over sandpaper. There are many times the number of invisible (subclinical) lesions as visible ones on the skin surface.

Most often, actinic keratoses develop slowly and reach a size from an eighth to a quarter of an inch. Early on, they may disappear only to reappear later. Most become red, but some will be light or dark tan, pink, red, a combination of these, or the same color as your skin. Occasionally they itch or produce a pricking or tender sensation. They can also become inflamed and surrounded by redness. In rare instances, actinic keratoses can even bleed, which I have personally experienced.

If you have actinic keratoses, it indicates that you have sustained sun damage and could develop any kind of skin cancer – not just squamous cell carcinoma. These pre-cancers commonly occur on the face and the back of the hands.

Below is a photo of the back of my hand…. Followed by a photo of a man’s handactinic keratosesactinic keratoses who did a before and after comparison after using NeriumAD, a night treatment with Nerium Oleander.  I wish I had thought to do a close up of my hands using the NeriumAD!

People with a fair complexion, blond or red hair, and blue, green or grey eyes (Identify Your Skin Type) have a high likelihood of developing one or more of these common precancers if they spend time in the sun and live long enough. Location makes a difference: The closer to the equator you live the more likely you are to have actinic keratoses.  Although I grew up in Vermont (one of the greyest states, second only to Seattle Washington) I did move to Florida when I was in my 40’s and then to Arizona in my 50’s….and yes, I just HAD to own a convertible during some of those years!

Statistics show that the incidence of developing AKs is slightly higher in men, because they tend to spend more time in the sun and use less sun protection than women do. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others with darker skin are not as susceptible as Caucasians.

Actinic keratosis can be the first step leading to 

squamous cell carcinoma

and is therefore known as a “precancer.” Although the vast majority of actinic keratoses remain benign, some studies report that up to ten percent may advance to squamous cell carcinoma. This percentage does not sound very large, but it has a large impact. When it comes to squamous cell carcinomas, 40-60 percent begin as untreated actinic keratoses and may advance to invade the surrounding tissues. About 2 to 10 percent of these squamous cell carcinomas spread to the internal organs and are life-threatening.

The more keratoses you have, the greater the chance that one or more may turn into skin cancer. In fact, some scientists interpret actinic keratosis as the earliest form of squamous cell carcinoma.

In 2004 I had a squamous skin care lesion removed from my right shoulder.  Since that time I go to my dermatologist every 6 months for a routine check-up and that is why I know as much as I do about AK’s.  Usually the doctors love to biopsy, burn or scrape off unusual or rough spots on my face or hands- however since using a product called NeriumAD the majority of my AK’s are either reduced or gone!

I began using NeriumAD mid-July of 2012 and went to my dermatologist early January, 2013.  She thought I had returned to another doctor for PDT (phyto-dynamic therapy) when in fact I have not.  All I have been doing is using NeriumAD. (NeriumAD is a night care skin care treatment, originally being tested and used for skin cancer research.  The unique formula with Nerium Oleander shows that in clinical trials that the average person, in a 30 day period, will benefit from an average of 30% in the appearance of the reduction of deep lines, fine lines, emerging lines, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, aging skin & sun-damage.

To learn more about Nerium please visit www.NIskincare.com It has been tremendous for the health of my skin- with wrinkles, age spots and especially for the health of my skin with sun damage.

A gallery of photographs of actinic keratosis is available to help you identify them.

References:  Actinic Keratosis

From Timothy DiChiara, Ph.D., former About.com Guide

Updated February 10, 2009





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