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Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that develops after years of exposure to the sun. Scaly, rough patches form slowly, and then gradually get bigger. The patches can vary in color - they can be pink, brown, red or the same color as the patient's healthy skin. They are dry to the touch. Actinic keratosis often appears on the face, ears, neck, lips, arms and hands.
The lesions are harmless, but require watching because they could signal skin cancer later. Actinic keratosis is mostly diagnosed later in life in fair-skinned people - those with blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, and who have a history of sunburns or freckles. Long-term exposure to the sun's (or a tanning salon's) ultraviolet rays leads to changes in the outermost layer of skin. People with weak immune systems are also susceptible to actinic keratosis.