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Unprotected UV exposure
Chronic unprotected exposure to UV radiation is the most common cause of actinic keratosis, which is why AKs often occur on areas of skin exposed to the sun.
Sun damage to the skin is cumulative. This means that the more time you spend in the sun over the years, even for short periods, the greater your chance of developing one or more AKs. The UV rays emitted by indoor solariums increase the risk of developing AKs and all types of skin cancer.
If you live in a sunny climate near the equator, where UV rays are strong for most of the year, you will be more exposed to the harmful effects of the sun. Therefore, people who live in regions near the equator are more likely to get AKs.
Regardless of the climate, anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors without protection risks developing one or more AKs. Even when it's cloudy, around 80 percent of UV rays can pass through clouds.
Weakened immune system
If your immune system is weakened as a result of medical treatments, including chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapy, or if you have a disease that affects immune function, such as leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV, the risk of developing AKs is higher. Heavy UV exposure suppresses the immune system and reduces its ability to repair further damage.
Although anyone can develop AKs, people with fair skin - especially people with red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, or skin that has freckles or is easily burned - are at greater risk of developing AKs.
Age over 40
Since sun damage to the skin accumulates over time, the longer you live, the greater the total lifetime damage. This explains why AKs are more common in people over 40.
However, AKs also occur in young adults, especially people with fair skin and eyes, and people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
What you can do
Be mindful: Perform monthly self-checks and visit your dermatologist annually for a thorough professional skin exam.
Protection against UV rays: Regardless of your skin type, you can reduce your risk of developing AKs and skin cancer with simple, intelligent protective measures.
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