Actinic keratosis (AK) is the most common precancer that forms on skin damaged by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The lesions often appear on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, lips, ears, shoulders, neck, and back. Generally, lesions appear as small, scaly patches of skin. They can be red, light or dark tan, pink, flesh-toned, or a combination of colors.(1)

Though only 5-10% of AKs turn into skin cancer, the majority of squamous cell skin cancers (which can be invasive) start out as AKs, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Having AKs raises a person’s lifetime risk of skin cancer.(1)

While anyone can develop actinic keratosis, people at increased risk include those who have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Have red or blond hair and blue or light-colored eyes;
  • Have a history of a lot of sun exposure or sunburn;
  • Tend to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight;
  • Are older than 40;
  • Live in a sunny place;
  • Work outdoors;
  • Have a weakened immune system.(2)

Treatment can prevent AKs from progressing to skin cancer, and can relieve common symptoms, such as itching or tenderness. The Skin Cancer Foundation states early treatment is particularly important for AKs on the head or neck, where skin cancers can be more aggressive.(3)

Cryosurgery is the most common treatment for AKs. For this treatment, the lesions are removed by freezing. The freezing causes blistering or peeling, and the damaged cells slough off, allowing new skin to appear. This treatment is done in a doctor’s office.(2)

Hydrozid® is an FDA cleared portable cryosurgery device, designed for primary care physicians, pediatricians, dermatologists, and podiatrists, for the treatment of actinic keratosis, skin tags, warts, and a number of additional nonmalignant skin conditions. Qualified providers, visit to set up an account and order.

(1) Goldberg, L. MD, Lebwhol M. MD, reviewers, Skin Cancer Foundation, Actinic Keratosis Overview,

(2) Mayo Clinic, Actinic Keratosis,

(3) American Academy Of Dermatology, 5 Facts You Should Know About Cancerous Skin Growths,