Question and answer

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 patches and lesions caused by an actinic keratosis.

Take these steps to protect your skin from the sun:

  • Limit your time in the sun. 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 an actinic keratosis.
  • Use sunscreen. Regular 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. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips. Apply sunscreen 20 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 and tan-accelerating agents. Tanning beds emit ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which are often touted as less dangerous than are ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. But UVA light penetrates deeper into your skin, causes actinic keratoses and increases your risk of skin cancer. Sunless tanning lotions or bronzing lotions that produce a tanned look without sun exposure are a safe choice, if you continue to use sunscreen when outdoors.
  • 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.