Actinic Keratosis: Causes, Signs And Preventation
The skin is the largest organ of the body and skin cancer, even though it has a cure rate of 95% when caught in the early stages, still accounts for approximately 2300 deaths every year. The pre-cancerous stage, sometimes called AK, is called actinic keratosis. Individuals may be more familiar with its other name – solar keratosis. This condition doesn’t necessarily lead to cancer but can be treated.
What to Look For
Actinic keratosis appears as scaly red patches on the skin that are usually located around the neck, ears, face and lips. It may also appear on the back on the hands or the forearms which are the easier areas to identify it. These areas are more at risk to develop AK because they are exposed for longer periods of time to the sunshine and to UV rays.
There are two main types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. The first type comes from tanning rays while the second are the burning rays. Both of these can cause actinic keratosis. The UVA rays are found in the tanning beds and while the manufacturers claim that it is only the UVB rays that cause damage, both according to dermatologists cause skin damage. Dermatologists recommend that individuals avoid the tanning beds.
Time Periods Involved and Recommended Protection
AK is not something that appears right away but actually takes years to develop. Half of the people of age 65 will have skin cancer because the body can absorb these rays for some time before being permanently damaged. The general population actually reaches the 80% level of maximum exposure by the time they are eighteen years of age.
There are plenty of types of sunscreen that a person can use and parents are advised to make sure their children are protected by at least SPF 15. SPF stands for sun protection factor which is the level that the substance protects the skin from the UV rays. SPF 15 in the lowest level that should be used but dermatologists say that SPF 30.
There are other ways to protect the skin from UV rays and ultimately help to prevent actinic keratosis. Wearing a tight-knit shirt or wearing jeans can block out the UV rays. A cap can protect the face but not the neck so a brimmed hat is more effective for this purpose. The UV rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm between which times it is best to stay out of the sunshine.
A person can check to see if they have AK by standing in front of the mirror and checking each part of the body, especially those most exposed to the sun. If any signs of AK are noticed, an appointment with the doctor should be made immediately.