Self-management

Prevention

Prevention of actinic keratoses is important because the condition can precede cancer or be an early form of skin cancer. Sun safety is necessary to help prevent development and recurrence of actinic keratosis patches and spots.

Take these steps to protect your skin from the sun:

  • Limit your time in the sun. Especially avoid time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And avoid staying in the sun so long that you get a sunburn or a suntan. Both result in skin damage that can increase your risk of developing actinic keratoses and skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over time may also cause actinic keratoses.
  • Use sunscreen. Daily use of sunscreen reduces the development of actinic keratoses. Before spending time outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

    Use sunscreen on all exposed skin, and use lip balm with sunscreen on your lips. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it every two hours or more often if you swim or sweat.

  • Cover up. For extra protection from the sun, wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs. Also wear a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than does a baseball cap or golf visor. You might also consider wearing clothing or outdoor gear specially designed to provide sun protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds. The UV exposure from a tanning bed causes just as much skin damage as a tan acquired from the sun. And because the radiation of a tanning bed is absorbed in a short time, the photoaging process is accelerated and increases your risk of skin cancer.
  • Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin regularly, looking for the development of new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine the tops and undersides of your arms and hands.
Nov. 09, 2016
References
  1. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Epithelial precancerous lesions. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Aug. 5, 2016.
  2. Padilla RS. Epidemiology, natural history and diagnosis of actinic keratosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 5, 2016.
  3. Wolff K, et al. Photosensitivity, photo-induced disorders and disorders by ionizing radiation. In: Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed June 19, 2015.
  4. Actinic keratosis. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/actinic-keratosis. Accessed Aug. 5, 2016.
  5. Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 21, 2016.
  6. Jorizzo J. Treatment of actinic keratosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 5, 2016.
  7. FDA sheds light on sunscreens. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm258416.htm. Accessed Aug. 5, 2016.
  8. AskMayoExpert. Actinic keratosis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  9. Habif TP. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Maryland Heights, Mo.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 19, 2015.
  10. Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed Sept. 26, 2016.
  11. Lebwohl M. Actinic keratosis. JAMA. 2016;315:1394.