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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.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines are also called NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may help decrease pain and inflammation (swelling).
  • Topical chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is often called "chemo". The word topical means it is put on the skin as a lotion or cream. This medicine is used to treat cancer that is in the outer layers of the skin. Topical chemotherapy is put on to kill cancer cells. While being treated, your skin may hurt and look very red.


You may need any of the following:

  • Biopsy: A skin biopsy may be needed to diagnose actinic keratosis. This is done by having a small piece of the sore removed from your skin. The sample is sent to a lab for tests to see if abnormal cells, such as cancer cells, are present.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.


You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines:
    • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
    • Topical chemotherapy: Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to put on your AK. It may cause your skin may hurt and look very red. Avoid getting your 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.
  • Surgery: Your healthcare provider may cut, scrape, freeze, or burn a section of skin to remove the AK.
  • Other procedures: Your healthcare provider may recommend chemical peels, dermabrasion, or laser therapy to treat your AK.


Treatment for actinic keratosis may have unpleasant side effects. Some medicines may cause your skin to turn red, sting, or burn. Other medicine may cause drowsiness, stomach ulcers, or kidney problems. You could get an infection or bleed too much if the skin sore is removed with surgery. You may have scarring or skin color changes. If left untreated, AK may turn into skin cancer and spread to other parts of your body. Once cancer spreads, it becomes more difficult to treat and other serious medical problems can develop. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your care.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Learn more about Actinic Keratosis (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

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