Actinic keratosis (AK) is precancerous skin growths. It happens on sun-damaged areas.
Years of sunlight (UV) exposure damages skin. This causes it to grow abnormally. Patches on skin pale or redden causing a mottled appearance. Then rough, scaly, or crusted areas develop. These areas are usually pink, but can be gray. Sometimes a small horn of fingernail-like material grows. These lesions are more common in older men. This is probably related to occupational sun exposure.
The lesions are benign (noncancerous). They can occasionally convert to squamous cell skin cancer . This cancer must be surgically removed. AK changes to skin cancer in about 1 in 1000 cases. Patient that have many lesions have a higher chance of skin cancer.
AK may remain unchanged, spontaneously resolve, or progress to skin cancer. The fate of any one AK is impossible to predict. People with sun-damaged skin should see a doctor at regular intervals. The doctor will check for skin cancer .