How to Spot Actinic Keratoses (AK) - A Potential Skin Cancer | LargoActinic keratoses (AK) usually develop on the lips, face, bald scalp, ears, neck, shoulders and the back of the forearms and hands.

These may range in size from a small spot to as much as one inch in diameter. AKs commonly look like small, crusty or scaly bumps or “horns.”

The base of the AK may be light or dark skin-colored and may also have more colors such as red, pink, and tan. Actinic cheilitis, which is a variant of AK, develops on the lower lip and its symptoms may include cracks, chapping, and whitish discoloration.


Not Easy to Detect

A person should routinely examine their skin for lesions. However, it is not always easy to detect AKs as they have varied appearances. Therefore, in case an individual detects an unusual or changing growth, they should contact an expert in medical dermatology as soon as possible.

Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by kind board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides advanced skin care treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winterhaven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, The Villages Central Florida, Florida, and surrounding communities across the landscape.


What is AK?

An AK is a scaly and rough patch of skin that occurs due to long-term sun exposure. It typically develops on the ears, face, lips, scalp, neck, or the back of the forearms and hands.

AK is also known as solar keratosis, and it gradually becomes larger with typically no symptoms other than a tiny spot or a patch on the skin. It takes years for such patches to develop and they commonly first manifest in people aged above 40 years.

A small number of AK lesions can slowly develop into skin cancer. Minimizing sun exposure and protecting the skin from UV rays can decrease the risk of AK development.



The symptoms of AK are as follows:

  • A dry, rough, or scaly patch of skin which is typically under one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter
  • Flat to a marginally elevated bump or patch on the uppermost skin layer
  • A wartlike, hard surface at times
  • Colors ranging from pink and red to brown
  • A burning or itching sensation in the impacted area

AK are typically located in areas that are exposed to sunlight such as the lips, ears, face, forearms, scalp, hands, and neck.


Common Signs to Note in Routine Self-Exam

  • Numerous tan crusts and red bumps on the scalp and forehead.
  • The lower lip with white patches, a protuberant sore and cracks with dried blood (this could potentially be a combination of cheilitis and skin cancer).
  • Crusted red spots on the ear and cheek.
  • Many silvery, red, white, and scaly lesions on the back of a finger.
  • A concentrated AK area on the cheek.


When to Consult a Dermatologist

It can be hard to differentiate between benign and malignant spots. The best course is to have any new skin changes assessed by a dermatologist, especially if a lesion or spot grows, bleeds, or persists.


Early Detection and Treatment

Almost all AK can be eliminated or cleared up if treated early before they become cancerous. Some untreated AKs may become squamous cell carcinoma, which is a type of cancer that is typically not deadly if diagnosed and treated early.

The accomplished Dr. Ewanowski’s skin care clinic receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winterhaven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, The Villages Central Florida, Florida, and other towns and cities in this amazing area of the southeast.

SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.