Age spots are also known as sun spots, liver spots, freckles, or lentigines. These lesions are flat, tan, brown, or dark brown spots on sun-exposed skin. As people age, sun spots most commonly appear on the backs of the hands, the forearms, neck, chest, and face.
Sun spots are associated with cumulative sun exposure (sun damage). The pigment producing cells in the skin (called melanocytes) are activated to produce more pigment (melanin) by ultraviolet rays. While these spots are not themselves cancerous, you may be at risk for skin cancer if you have them.
It is important to distinguish the harmless sun spot or lentigo from an early malignant melanoma. If the freckle has developed recently, has more than one color or irregular borders or if you have any doubts, that spot needs to be examined by a dermatologist.
Seborrheic keratoses are another type of benign brown marks on the skin that are raised, scaly, warty or look stuck-on. Family history and sun exposure are believed to play a role in their development.
What causes age spots?
Age spots increase with age and with increased sun exposure. They are a form of sun damage. They are more common in people who freckle or burn easily.
What do age spots look like?
Age spots — also called liver spots and solar lentigines — are flat, gray, brown or black spots. They vary in size and shape and usually appear on the face, hands, chest, shoulders and arms — areas most exposed to the sun. Though age spots are very common in adults older than age 40, they can affect younger people as well depending on the amount of sun damage their skin has received.
True age spots are harmless and don't need treatment, but they can look like cancerous growths. As a rule, anyone over 12 years of age should have a full-body skin examination once a year or more often, depending on their individual risk factors for skin cancer.
Photos courtesy Global Skin Atlas and Dermquest.com
The best treatment for age spots is prevention. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen regularly will go a long way to preventing sun damage, wrinkles and age spots and dramatically decrease the risk of skin cancer.
Other treatments for age spots offered at Summit Medical Group Dermatology
Bleaching creams, alone or in combination with retinoids
Summit Medical Groupprovides medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology for women, men, and adolescents in the tri-state area, including New York and New Jersey as well as Essex County, Morris County, Bergen County, Union County, Passaic County, Somerset County, Sussex County, and Livingston, NJ; Millburn, NJ; Short Hills, NJ; West Orange, NJ; Berkeley Heights, NJ; Caldwell, NJ; Cedar Grove, NJ; Cedar Knolls, NJ; Chatham, NJ; East Hanover, NJ; Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Essex Fells, NJ; Fair Lawn, NJ; Florham Park, NJ; Fort Lee, NJ; Glen Ridge, NJ; Jersey City, NJ; Kennelon, NJ; Madison, NJ; Maplewood, NJ; Mendham, NJ; Montclair, NJ; Montvale, NJ; Morristown, NJ; New Providence, NJ; North Caldwell, NJ; Parsippany, NJ; Randolph, NJ; Roseland, NJ; South Orange, NJ; Springfield, NJ; Summit, NJ; Union, NJ; Verona, NJ; West Caldwell, NJ; Whippany, NJ; and Westfield, NJ.
Disclaimer:The information on this Web site is solely for to educate patients. It is not intended to be medical advice and, therefore, should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional. Communications to or from the Summit Medical Group Web site and any person will not be used to establish a relationship between a patient and doctor.