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Actinic Keratosis


Actinic keratosis (AK) is sometimes referred to as solar keratosis or sun spots. AK typically appears as a dry, scaly lesion on the skin. It is often reddish-brown or yellowish-black in colour and appear on sun-exposed areas, such as the:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Back of the hands
  • Forearms


AK is a result of prolonged and repeated sun exposure. It happens slowly over time, so years can often go by before it is diagnosed. It is critical to see your doctor if you spot a lesion because, if left untreated, AK can turn into a type of cancer called invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 40% of all SCCs begin as AKs.


The main types of treatments are:

  • Topical therapy
  • Liquid nitrogen/cryotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy

Sometimes a combination of these therapies is used. The choice of treatment depends on several factors, including severity and location. Talk to your doctor to learn more about treatment options.

To learn more about actinic keratosis, visit:

American Academy of Dermatology
Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Dermatology Association