Pathobiology of actinic keratosis: Ultraviolet-dependent keratinocyte proliferation

Brian Berman, Clay J. Cockerell, Panagiotis Zografos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Actinic keratoses are proliferations of transformed neoplastic keratinocytes in the epidermis that are the result of cumulative ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sun exposure. They are commonly found on sites of sun-exposed skin such as the face, balding scalp, and back of the hand. Although UV exposure does exert certain beneficial effects on the skin, excessive exposure to UV radiation induces multiple cascades of molecular signaling events at the cellular level that produce inflammation, immunosuppression, failure of apoptosis, and aberrant differentiation. Cumulatively, these actions result in mutagenesis and, ultimately, carcinogenesis. This article provides a brief overview of the key mediators that are implicated in the pathobiology of actinic keratosis. Three evolutionary possibilities exist for these keratoses in the absence of treatment: (1) spontaneous remission, which can be common; (2) remaining stable, without further progression; or (3) transformation to invasive squamous cell carcinoma, which may metastasize. Because the effects of UV radiation on the skin are complex, it is not yet fully clear how all of the mediators of actinic keratosis progression are interrelated. Nonetheless, some represent potential therapeutic targets, because it is clear that directing therapy to the effects of UV radiation at a number of different levels could interrupt and possibly reverse the mechanisms leading to malignant transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S10-S19
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number1 SUPPL.1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • actinic keratosis
  • apoptosis
  • immunosuppression
  • keratinocyte carcinogenesis
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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