Those rough , red scaly patches on your skin may seem harmless enough. But doctors say they may be the beginning of skin cancer. "Initially I think I probably thought they were blemishes," said Dick Ink. Dick did spend a lot of time outdoors, unprotected from the sun as a youth. "They were red and they sometimes felt dry or scaly and I decided I better check on it," he said. Turns out Dick made a wise decision. In fact, one in six Americans Suffers from a skin condition called actinic keratosis, also known as AK. AK is one of the earliest signs of skin cancer and it occurs as a result of cumulative sun exposure over the years. Fortunately, the majority can be treated with very simple methods before they turn into squamous cell carinoma, which is a lilfe-threatening form of skin cancer. Doctors say awareness is key. If AK sufferers treat the condition, they likely will not encounter further complications. Dr. Steven Rosenberg is a dermatologist with the University of Miami . He said, "We don't know exactly which actinic keratoses will turn into skin cancer and that's why the vast majority should be treated." Who is at risk? Anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun. Fair-skinned people with light hair and eyes are especially prone. People with poor immune systems. While AK can strike any age, it mostly affects older people. The good news, you can reduce your chances of getting AK by applying sunscreen frequently, staying in the shade when possible, wearing wide-brimmed hats and of course, making sure your kids are protected from the often dangerous sun , especially since Ak can take years to develop. Dick now performs regular skin exams and goes to his dermatologist when he notices anything irregular, something all of us should practive.