Risk factors are any characteristics or attribute of an individual that make them more likely to develop the disease. Some risk factors are genetic and largely out of the person’s control, while others are environmental or lifestyle-related, and are largely within the person’s control.
Both risk-factors are important to understand – if you are especially susceptible, you can be more proactive in checking for possible signs of disease and take the first step to see a doctor to start treatment early.
The main risk factors for Actinic Keratosis are:
This is the biggest risk factor and most others relate to the amount of sun exposure one receives.
Incidence of AK increases with age, due to longer total exposure to the sun, and likely due to weakening immunological response.
Likely due to the protective effect of melanin, people with lighter skin have a higher incidence of AK.
Men are diagnosed with AK more than women. This is likely due to occupational differences and resulting difference in total sun exposure.
Immunosuppressed patients are at much higher risks of developing AKs as well as various skin cancers suggesting that it does play an important role in fighting malignancy. The most clear case of immunosuppression is with transplant patients who need to take medications to suppress the immune response to prevent it from attacking the transplanted organs. Transplant patients have a 100 fold risk of developing AK compared to healthy patients.
Previous history of AKs or skin cancers are relevant as it shows that this area of skin is sun damaged and susceptible. It doesn’t mean that the previous skin cancer or AK is recurring or wasn’t effectively treated, but it simply means that the skin is damaged and more likely to later produce more problems.