Solar Keratosis

A pinkish-red, scaly, rough-textured skin growth caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight; also called actinic keratosis

  • More common in people over the age of 40
  • More common in males
  • Fair-skinned people are most at risk
  • Exposure to the sun and the use of sunbeds are risk factors

Solar keratoses are small, scaly skin growths usually caused by years of exposure to sunlight. People under the age of 40 are not often affected by the condition, but the risk of solar keratoses increases after this age and is higher than normal in people (usually men) who work outdoors. The disorder is most common in fair-skinned people, who are often particularly sensitive to the sun.

The lesions are pinkish-red and have a rough texture. They most commonly appear on uncovered areas of the skin, such as the face, ears, the backs of the hands, and on bald parts of the scalp. Usually, several lesions appear at the same time. Sometimes, a solar keratosis develops into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

What might be done?

The lesions should always be removed. Various treatment options are available. Your doctor may freeze or scrape them off, or may prescribe a cream or gel to remove them. In some cases, photodynamic therapy may be suggested. This involves applying a cream that sensitizes the skin then shining a special light on to the lesions. The combination of the cream and light usually destroys the lesions. However, the lesions may recur after treatment.

To reduce the risk of developing this condition, protect your skin from exposure to the sun (see Safety in the sun) and avoid using sunbeds. People who are bald or have thin hair should wear a hat outdoors.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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