ANSWER: Age spots appear as darker brown skin pigmentation similar to a freckle. They can also be gray or black.
What Causes Age Spots?
The most common source of solar lentigines, often referred to as age spots or liver spots, is over-exposure to the sun. This is why they generally appear on face, hands, and shoulders that are more often exposed to the sun over a lifetime.
It May not be an Age Spot
If you notice the appearance of any new skin lesions, it is best to have it checked by a doctor. Though age spots are harmless, melanoma is not and can sometimes be mistaken for age spots. Change in color, size, and shape of any skin lesion can be a sign of trouble and warrants medical opinion.
Why It’s Important Not To Self-diagnose
Several skin conditions may appear to be age spots. Though some are innocuous, others are not. A physician will have the ability to tell the difference and in some cases will order a biopsy of the area to be certain that the area is not cancerous.
Condition: Ordinary skin moles vary from person to person in color, size, and location. Most people have between ten and forty. Though the majority of skin moles are harmless, they can develop into cancerous lesions. Nearly one in ten people have atypical moles medically referred to as dysplastic nevi, which are more likely than regular moles to turn cancerous.
Condition: Seborrheic keratosis often appears over the age of forty and can be mistaken for age spots. These raised skin lesions have a wart-like appearance and are often black, brown, or gray. They are a non-cancerous form of skin tumor.
Condition: Lentigo melanoma is a cancerous skin condition that is most often diagnosed in the elderly, can be mistaken for age spots, and is caused by over-exposure to the sun. Lentigo melanoma usually appears on the skin as flat areas of pigmentation that are tan with areas of brown.
“Age spots (liver spots) – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/age-spots/DS00912.
“Liver spots: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001141.htm.
“Melanoma: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000850.htm.
“Seborrheic Keratosis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000884.htm.
“What You Need To Know About Moles – National Cancer Institute.” National Cancer Institute – Comprehensive Cancer Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/moles-and-dysplastic-nevi/allpages.