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Solar (Actinic) Keratosis

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Last updated November 1, 2021

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What is solar (actinic) keratosis

Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is the most common skin condition caused by chronic exposure to the sun. It appears as small, rough, raised growths that may be hard and warty. They are not painful, but if shaved over, they can bleed. If they are not treated, they may develop into a skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).


  • They may be red, light or dark tan, white, pink, flesh-toned or a combination of colors.
  • Raised bump with sandpaper-like scale
  • Not painful


You should see a dermatologist to have the affected skin evaluated. There are several treatments for actinic keratosis, including freezing the keratosis with liquid nitrogen, or applying a cream or gel. Some keratoses will disappear on their own within a year.

If you have been diagnosed with actinic keratosis, you should wear sunscreen on your face every day to prevent more lesions from forming. When you have a lot of them, you need regular skin checks.

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