What are age spots?

Age spots are also known as liver spots, sun spots or solar lentigines (lentigo for only one). They are flat marks that develop on the skin. They appear in different shades of brown, tan, or black. Age spots are harmless, but it is important to see your doctor to confirm that they are not cancerous moles.

Age spots usually develop later in life on areas of the body that have had a lot of sun exposure, such as:

  • Face and neck
  • Back of the hands
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back
  • Tops of the feet

How common are age spots?

Age spots are extremely common, especially in people with lighter skin who are over the age of 50.

Who is affected by age spots?

Age spots can affect anyone who has had prolonged sun exposure. While they usually happen to older people, age spots can appear on children and young adults if they have spent a lot of time in the sun or in a tanning bed or even after a single significant sunburn. Women are slightly more likely to develop age spots than men, though both men and women can be affected.

Age spots are more likely to develop on people over age 50 who have:

  • Spent a lot of time in the sun or tanning beds
  • Fair skin
  • Family history of age spots

How do people get age spots?

Prolonged sun exposure causes age spots to develop. UV light from the sun speeds up the skin’s production of melanin (the skin’s natural pigment). When more melanin forms in a particular area, the skin has more pigment and becomes darker. This is known as hyperpigmentation.

What are the symptoms of age spots?

So-called liver spots can develop over time or appear suddenly. These age spots are not painful. Symptoms include:

  • Brown, tan, or black patches of skin that may get darker after spending time in the sun
  • Discolored areas of different sizes, from the size of a tiny freckle up to an inch in diameter
  • Flat patches that appear on their own or clustered in a group
  • Dark spots on the skin with sharply defined edges or borders

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