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Actinic Keratosis


Actinic keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, is a precancerous skin disease. Precancerous means that it may lead to cancer. AK causes a dry, scaly, or rough bump to form on your skin. The bumps usually form on the head, neck, or arms. AK is found more often in fair-skinned, light-haired people.



  • Topical chemotherapy: Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to put on your AK. The medicine may cause your skin to hurt and turn red. Be careful not to get the medicine on skin other than the area being treated. If you do, wash it off right away with soap and water. If the medicine gets on your clothes, wash your clothes right away.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Skin care:

  • Check your skin: Look for new bumps once a month. Know what your birthmarks look like. Watch closely for changes, especially after you are 40 years of age.
  • Protect your skin:
    • Do not use tanning beds. The beds use ultraviolet (UV) rays and can damage your skin as much as the sun.
    • Wear sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. The sunscreen should also have UVA and UVB protection. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen. Put on more sunscreen if you are in the sun for longer than an hour. Reapply sunscreen often if you swim or sweat.
    • Stay out of the sun between 11 AM and 2 PM. The sun is strongest and most damaging to your skin between these times.
    • Protect your lips by using lipsticks and lip balms that contain sunscreen.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your arms and legs when you are out in the sun. Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect both your face and neck.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your skin stings or burns when you use your medicines.
  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have pus or blood oozing out of your skin sores.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Learn more about Actinic Keratosis (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.