Of the many signs of aging, sun spots on the hands—and elsewhere—are among the most irritating and embarrassing. Of course, sometimes sun spots, or age spots, look a lot time something more problematic: melanoma. It’s helpful to know the difference so that you don’t concern yourself over something that won’t harm you.

Commonly known as liver spots, lentigines, are caused by sun exposure over a long span of time. They’re normal, though some people still seek to be rid of them. The problem is that they can sometimes resemble melanoma, which is not normal. In fact, melanoma is a very dangerous form of skin cancer. Thus, people with these spots may sometimes end up in one of two situations: either they worry over spots that are harmless, or they ignore something dangerous because they think it is harmless.

Overall, it is always best to have any spot checked. If it has not been with you most of your life and has appeared recently, see a physician. If you’re over the age of 50—or younger, in come cases—have a full body exam done once a year, and have any new spots checked immediately. This particularly applies to those with a family history of skin cancer.

There are three primary types of age spots: cherry hemangiomas, lentigines, and seborrheic keratoses. Cherry hemangiomas are very small, red spots resulting from too many red blood vessels in that area of the skin. Lentigines are dark, sometimes tan spots that look like flat freckles. They are usually very small, but can sometimes be the size of a small coin, and are what most people think of when they imagine age spots. Seborrheic keratoses can be many colors and often resemble warts, or skin tags.

Melanoma may look like seborrheic keratoses, or Lentigines. The thing to look for is change. An age spot, once it appears, will not generally change much. However, if a melanoma grows, you will see the change. It may grow out of an already-existing sun spot, or mole, or may appear on its own. If you see a new growth, or see a sun spot change, see your doctor immediately. In its early stages, it is treatable. However, the longer it remains, the further it spreads, the harder it is to control, and it can be lethal.

  • Spots to be regarded as potential problems may:
  • Have an irregular shape.
  • Be asymmetrical.
  • Have more than one color, or be very dark.
  • Grow to be larger than normal.
  • Change noticeably in a relatively short time.

The only way to be absolutely certain is to have your doctor examine the spot. If something is truly suspicious, he or she may need to biopsy the area. During your visit, whether it’s your average checkup, or an appointment to check a specific spot, ask your doctor to talk to you about age spots vs. melanoma. She or he can show you explicitly what a sun spot looks like on you, and tell you when to be concerned.

Let Inverness Dermatology and Laser be your reliable skin care provider. We can help you with both age spot treatments, as well as cancerous lesions. Call us today.