Actinic Keratosis: Causes, Signs and Preventation

The most common type of cancer is skin cancer since the skin is the largest organism in the body. Skin cancer accounts for 2,300 deaths a year even though it has a curable rate of about 95% when caught in the early stages. A treatable precancerous skin condition is actinic keratosis which is also known as solar keratosis or AK for short. Just because the condition is precancerous it doesn't mean you have cancer or that the condition will lead to cancer. Actually there is a very slim chance that actinic keratosis will turn into cancer.

What You Should Look For?

The ruff, red, scaly patches on the skin found near the ear, neck, face, lips, back of the hand and forearms make it easy to identify actinic keratosis. Since these areas of the body are most commonly exposed to the sun for long periods the condition is most likely to develop in these areas.

UV Rays

Long periods of exposure to the suns harmful ultraviolet rays will lead to actinic keratosis. Three percent of all solar radiation penetrating the earth is made up of ultraviolet rays which are a part of an invisible spectrum. Only about twenty percent of the UV rays are blocked even on a cloudy day.

UV rays have two types. The first is UVA which are known as the tanning rays and UVB which are known as the burning rays. The skin can be harmed by both rays and can lead to actinic keratosis. UVA's are used for tanning beds. The manufactures of tanning beds claims that any kind of skin condition is only caused by the UVB rays. Although long periods of exposure to both UVA and UVB rays will cause skin damage and dermatologist recommend individuals not to use tanning beds.

How Long Before You Notice Any Skin Conditions and Who Is Affected?

Actinic keratosis won't develop for many years. About fifty percent of individual who reach sixty-five will have some form of skin cancer. This is because the body can only absorb so much ultraviolet rays before the skin becomes permanently damaged. People actually reach eighty percent of the maximum exposure level once they reach eighteen years old.

What is SPF?

Parents should protect their children by applying some time of sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 15. SPF is the sun protection factor that stands for how well a product blocks the harmful UV rays from the sun and 15 is about 150 minutes of protection from the product. While SPF 15 is the minimum, dermatologists recommend SPF 30 or 300 minutes.

Alternative Ways to Protect Yourself

There are alternative ways to prevent actinic keratosis if you don't like to apply sunscreen. Wearing a tight knit cotton shirt or jeans can effectively block ultraviolet rays. The face can be protected by wearing a baseball cap but it won't protect the neck and ears so you should wear a full rimmed hat. However, reflecting ultraviolet rays are not blocked by hats and shade. When ultraviolet rays are at their most intense between the peek hours of 10am and 4pm it is best to stay out of the sun to avoid skin problems.

Self-Examination and What to Do if You Think You Notice Signs of Actinic Keratosis

As with any examination you should stand in front of a mirror during a self-examination and careful examine all parts of your body that are in constant exposure to the sun including your face, neck, ears, lips, the back of your hands and forearms. If you notice any signs of actinic keratosis you should make an appointment with your doctor right away. Surgery, freezing, cauterizing or topical lotions can be used to treat the condition if it is found early. While actinic keratosis isn't likely to develop into any type of skin cancer it shouldn't be ignored.

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