Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratoses first appear as an area of redness and texture change. The skin is slightly rough and may eventually accumulate scale. Pigmentation may vary from pink to brown. Actinic keratoses are most often seen on the face and ears. The back of the hands and forearms frequently form lesions. The lower legs, the chest in women and the upper back are also frequently involved. The surrounding skin can show typical features of sun damage that include brown lentigines and telangiectasias.


Early actinic keratosis showing redness and scaling on the nose

Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis, a thicker lesion that resembles a squamous cell carcinoma


Actinic keratosis on the hand. Several small lesions are present.


Actinic keratosis on the leg. Many small lesions are present.

Lesions can be either localized and discrete or diffuse. Localized lesions form dense scale that may accumulate resulting in a cutaneous horn. Early lesions that are superficial with little scale may form over a wide area such as on the face and scalp. The lip can either accumulate scale or develop an erosion. Examine lip lesions with gloved fingers. Thick lesions may have developed into squamous cell carcinoma. The ears are another area that is difficult to evaluate. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate an actinic keratosis, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma when examining the ears.


Actinic keratosis forming a cutaneous horn


actinic cheilitis

Actinic cheilitis on the lower lip is severely sun damaged



Actinic keratoses are commonly found on the ears