Causes Of Actinic Keratosis


An actinic keratosis, or simply AK, is a precancerous skin growth that develops on skin damaged by UV light.  The damage to the skin can be by ultraviolet light from the sun or indoor tanning equipment like sunlamps or tanning beds. 

How Does UV Light Cause AK? 

When ultraviolet light hits our skin it can result in damage to skin cells called keratinocytes. Keratinocytes live in the outer layer of skin and offer texture to our skin. When these cells are exposed to UV light, changes can occur to our skin and make it rough and scaly. The skin may also appear discolored and develop horn-like or bumpy growths. These are the classic signs of actinic keratosis and if you notice any such changes to your skin, get in touch with medical professionals in low-income health clinics in your area. If necessary, these professionals will refer you to a skincare specialist for further diagnosis. 

Are Some People At Increased Risk Of AK? 

As per the experts, the people most likely to get actinic keratosis have certain risk factors in common. Some of the common risk factors of actinic keratosis are: 

  • Having fair skin: Fair skin can easily burn and tans rarely. 
  • Natural blonde or red hair. 
  • Eyes with light color. 
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun. 
  • Use of a tanning bed. 
  • Fifty years of age or older. 
  • Recipient of organ transplant. 
  • A person with a weakened immune system. 
  • A person with albino skin. 
  • Bloom syndrome, Rothmund Thomson syndrome, Xeroderma pigmentosum. 

As per the healthcare professionals in free women’s clinics, most people who get actinic keratosis have spent much time outdoors without protecting their skin and are fifty years or older. If you reside in an area that is sunny and warm round the year, or if you use tanning beds, there are chances that you develop actinic keratosis at a younger age. 

Additionally, a recipient of a transplanted organ tends to develop actinic keratosis. This is because the medication taken by the person to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ can suppress the immune system so much that the body will experience difficulty in healing the damage that is caused by the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. This will result in the quick development of actinic keratosis. If you notice a rough skin patch or chapped lip that will not heal, it is recommended to get it examined by a dermatologist.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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