When you think of summer what’s the first thing that come to mind? Relaxing on the beach or by a pool?
Exposing your freshly painted toenails in flip flops? Smelling coconuts and pineapple or newly clipped grass?
Sipping iced drinks? Tanks and shorts?
Regardless of your answer, chances are pretty high actinic keratosis (AK) wasn’t topping your list. Yet did you know there is a one in six chance you already have this precancerous skin condition?
AK, sometimes called solar keratosis, forms on skin that soaks up sunshine year after year. It is sometimes confused with sun spots or age spots, but tends to manifest itself as a rough, dry, scaly patch or lesion that forms on sun-exposed areas like the face, neck and scalp.
Board-certified dermatologist Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), says while AK are very common, they can also be very dangerous.
AK can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, the second-most-common type of skin cancer. One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer in his or her lifetime, according to the AAD.
“It’s very important to check your skin for signs and symptoms of sun damage. In addition to moles, persistent skin changes in color and texture, like red, pink, grey or skin-colored patches that are rough or scaly, are often indications of sun damage, and may not be as obvious as a mole. I often tell my patients to have their partner or spouse check their skin regularly for any of these signs,” Dr. Gilbert said in a written statement.
A recent survey of Americans adults, age 25 or older, conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, 2012 by Public Strategies Inc., revealed 90 percent of respondents had never heard of AK. More than half of the people surveyed (58 percent) thought they were at risk for sun damage but had never checked their own skin or had a medical professional check their skin for sun damage-related skin conditions.
The survey also revealed some other dangerous misconceptions about skin health.