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Solar keratosis: Symptoms, Causes and Complications

The solar keratosis is also known as actinic keratosis. This is a rough and scaly patch on the skin which develops from years exposed to sun. Also the solar keratosis can happen from the indoor tanning. This condition is most commonly found on neck, scalp, forearms, back of hands, ears, lips and face. This condition enlarges slowly and usually it is not causing signs or symptoms other than a patch or small spot on the skin. It takes years for these patches to develop and usually they first appear in people who are over 40. It is small the number of cases in which solar keratosis can become skin cancer. You can minimize your risk of solar keratosis by protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays and minimizing your sun exposure. Most people have more than one actinic keratosis and when people have more than one actinic keratosis then it is known as actinic keratoses. It is very important to stay protected and to prevent the solar keratosis because it can lead to cancer or it can be an early form of skin cancer [1]. You should stay safe in the sun because this can help to prevent the development and recurrence of solar keratosis patches and spots. Every single person who is having solar keratosis should be under a dermatologist’s care. Most people who have solar keratosis continue to get new solar keratosis for life. Actinic keratosis is considered as a precancerous condition. It is very important to go on regular checkups to your dermatologist because in this way you will prevent the skin cancer. The solar keratosis can come and go. It can appear on your skin, remain for months and then flake off and disappear. Your skin suddenly can feel smooth. There are many solar keratosis which re – appear in a period of few days to a few weeks. This is happening when the person goes out without sun protection [2].

actinic keratosis lip

Symptoms of solar keratosis

Here are some signs and symptoms of solar keratosis:

  • Itching or burning in the affected area
  • Color as varied as pink, red or brown
  • In some cases, a hard, wartlike surface
  • Flat to slightly raised patch or bump on the top layer of skin
  • Rough, dry or scaly patch of skin, usually less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter

The solar keratosis is primarily found on areas which are exposed to sun, such as neck, scalp, forearms, hands, ears, lips and face. It can be difficult to know if you have cancerous or noncancerous cells. If you have some new skin changes, especially if a spot or lesion bleeds, grows or persists, then you should talk with your doctor.

Causes of solar keratosis

This condition is caused by intense or frequent exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun or from tanning beds [3].

Solar keratosis risk factors 

Every single person can develop solar keratosis. It is known that you will have increased risk of developing solar keratosis if you:

  • Have a weak immune system as a result of chemotherapy, leukemia, AIDS or organ transplant medications
  • Have a personal history of a solar keratosis or skin cancer
  • Tend to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight
  • Have HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Have red or blond hair and blue or light – colored eyes
  • Have a personal history of intense or frequent sun exposure or sunburn
  • Live in a sunny climate
  • Are older than 40

Complications of solar keratosis

When solar keratosis is treated early, almost in all cases can be removed or cleared up before develop into the skin cancer. If you leave them untreated, then some of these spots can progress to squamous cell carcinoma [4] which is a type of cancer that usually is not life threatening if it is detected and treated early. If you have a lot of patches for a long time, then you have more chances of developing solar keratosis [5]. There are some studies in which are said that people who have several patches are having 1 in 10 chance of getting skin cancer in a period of ten years after they first developed solar keratosis. Here are some signs that a patch has turned into cancer:

  • Bleeding
  • Hurting
  • Growing quickly

If you get any new patches or lumps on your skin or, if you have some of the above mentioned symptoms, then you should talk with your doctor.


[1] Harvey I, Frankel S, Marks R, et al. Non-melanoma skin cancer and solar keratoses. I. Methods and descriptive results of the South Wales Skin Cancer Study. British Journal of Cancer. 1996;74(8):1302-7.

[2] Chang Y, Barrett JH, Bishop DT, et al. Sun exposure and melanoma risk at different latitudes: a pooled analysis of 5700 cases and 7216 controls. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2009;38(3):814–30.

[3] Zhang M, Qureshi AA, Geller AC, et al. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2012;30(14):1588–93.

[4] Neill CJ. Subungual squamous cell carcinoma: A case study. Medical Dosimetry. 2017;42(2).

[5] American Chemical Society. Skin patch could painlessly deliver vaccines, cancer medications in one minute. EurekAlert! 2019. Retrieved from

Neem Mayur
Neem Mayur
Mayur Neem, a certified dietician having more than 5 years of experience in the field of diet practice. He is working as a diet expert and offering services to body builders, sports persons, celebrities, etc. He is lover of natural remedies and loves to spend most of his free time in his organic farm and offers expert advice on organic farming to local farmers. He is available through [email protected]


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