Age spots are also known as sun spots, liver spots, or solar lentigines. They are small, flat, brown spots on the skin that begin to appear later in life on sun-exposed areas. They are particularly common on the face, neck, arms, and backs of the hands, usually sparing the knuckles. These age spots are not typically a health concern, but a skin examination by an experienced provider is recommended as these spots can sometimes be similar in appearance to skin cancer.
Age spots are thought to be caused by years of sunlight exposure. The sun damages the pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes), causing them to over-produce pigment in sun-exposed areas. The age spots may increase in size over time and sometimes join together to create larger spots. They may also resemble freckles, but are typically darker and have a more consistent color throughout.
Who is Most at Risk for Age Spots?
Age spots can affect all ages and skin types, but there are a few factors that make people particularly susceptible. As the name suggests, they are more likely to appear as people age. They also appear more often and more visibly on fair skin. They are also called “sun spots,” and are correlated with high exposure to sunlight. Although these typically affect those over 40 years old, prolonged exposure to the sun can cause them to appear on younger people’s skin as well.
A skin exam is important in order to establish the correct diagnosis, and sometimes a biopsy may also be necessary. Some of these age spots can be similar in appearance to skin cancers (particularly melanoma), so it’s important for patients to make sure these are not areas of concern.
Age Spot Removal and Treatment
They are benign, meaning they do not cause any harm. However, some people seek treatment because they dislike the appearance of them. Sun protection can prevent new lesions or existing lesions from becoming larger. There are several possible treatments, including sun protection, topical creams, cryotherapy, chemical peels, and laser therapy. Sun protection can prevent new lesions or existing lesions from becoming larger.