Your Skin may be at Risk: Actinic Keratosis
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With the warmer weather starting to arrive, everyone is anxious to get outdoors and enjoy those backyard barbecues and other outdoor activities. But what many don't realize is without proper sun protection, they could be putting themselves at risk for developing Actinic Keratosis (AK), a serious skin condition that can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer if left untreated.
Interestingly, men are more at risk for AK because they have shorter hair than women, are less likely to wear sunscreen or cover up their exposed skin, and often work in more outdoor jobs than women. Also, men spend an average of 24 hours a week outdoors in the summertime, putting themselves at serious risk for developing AK. But it's not just the summertime when unprotected exposure to the sun can put us at risk - it's all year round.
When it comes to sun protection, men aren't getting a passing grade. While 84 percent of men know they should wear sunscreen anytime their skin is exposed, an astonishing 29 per cent admit to never wearing sunscreen. That's nearly one in three. "Most men aren't concerned about getting skin cancer, and often think it's just something our parents and grandparents have to worry about," says Dr. Charles Lynde, Toronto-based dermatologist. "But the demographic is getting much younger." In fact, one in five (21 per cent) young men (aged 18-24) think the risk of developing skin cancer is mainly a concern for seniors (60+), but 3 in 4 dermatologists say AK patients have been getting younger over the years. In general, men have a 'wait-and-see' or "it won't happen to me" attitude when it comes to skin cancer detection. "Many men don't think about checking their skin for suspicious sun spots," says Dr. Lynde. "But protection and detection against precancerous lesions go hand in hand, all year round and men need to remember to do spot checks and get diagnosed."
What is AK?
Actinic Keratosis is an abnormal change, or lesion of the skin that occurs as a result of chronic UV exposure from the sun. The sun's rays cause changes in the size, shape, and organization of the top layer of skin cells and can then form AK. Actinic Keratosis ranks as one of the most frequent reasons people consult a dermatologist, and is considered a pre-cancer. Many people often confuse AK with age spots, eczema or psoriasis. Actinic Keratosis is usually located on the face or balding scalp and is very common in males over 40. It's also important to remember that AK often varies in appearance; lesions can be small, red, and sometimes scaly or rough patches. They range in size from a few millimeters to one or two centimeters in diameter and they may feel dry and rough like sandpaper.
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