As spring is approaching and we will be spending more time outdoors, it is important to be aware of a common skin condition that occurs as a result of sun exposure.

Actinic keratosis, also known as a solar keratosis, is the most common pre-cancerous condition that develops on the skin, affecting more than 58 million Americans.

Actinic keratoses typically appear as rough, scaly areas on the skin. They are most commonly found on the face, lips, ears, forearms, back of the hands, scalp and neck, which are the body areas most frequently exposed to the sun. They sometimes disappear temporarily, but always come back.

Actinic keratoses happen as a result of the long-term damage from chronic exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and-or indoor tanning.

Other risk factors for pre-cancerous skin conditions include: being over 40 years old, having fair skin and light eyes, having a weakened immune system, and living closer to the equator.

The good news is we have some tricks to help reverse some of that past sun exposure, including topical vitamin A, often known as Retin-A. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is another great in-office, non-invasive option to help undo sun damage that leads to unwelcomed skin changes like wrinkles and brown spots.

It is equally important to prevent future sun damage by wearing sunscreen with SPF30 or higher every day as well as UPF protective clothing and hats, sunglasses, and SPF lip balms.

Actinic keratoses put one at a higher risk for skin cancer because these spots can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a common and sometimes invasive form of skin cancer. Once one is diagnosed with a pre-cancerous actinic keratosis, the likelihood of getting more goes up.

If detected and diagnosed early, actinic keratoses can often be treated effectively before they progress into skin cancer. There are numerous options available to successfully treat this condition including topical medications, in-office shave removal, cryotherapy or “freezing” and photodynamic therapy.

If you suspect you might have developed an actinic keratosis or have a history of skin pre-cancers, it is wise to be proactive and seek early treatment with your dermatology provider who can accurately diagnose and effectively manage and treat this condition.

A visit to your dermatology provider for a yearly skin examination will help keep you safe and feeling your best.

Suzanne Wheeler Deckelbaum, NP-BC, DCNP is a dermatology certified nurse practitioner with Pure Medical Spa/Pinnacle Medical Group.