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Are Age Spots Bad?

Elderly Hand with Sun Spots Exactly how bad are age spot for your skin?  Age spots, also commonly referred to as sun spots or liver spots, are small dark spots or splotches that appear on the surface of the skin. They are more often brown, but they can also be gray or black. They typically occur as the result of frequent or prolonged exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds. Exposure to UV light causes an increased production of melanin, a dark pigment in the skin. In time, excess melanin can clump together, causing spots. In most cases, they are not a major cause for concern, but there are some things that you should look for.

Skin Spots Can Be Dangerous

When examining any type of spot on your skin, there are certain things to look for that could indicate a more serious problem. True age spots are completely harmless, but, unfortunately, there are other conditions that appear similar but are potentially more dangerous. Harmless spots caused by build-up of melanin tend to have the appearance of freckles. They are flat and generally small in size. They take time to develop, so if one shows up suddenly, it is likely that it is something else. They are most common on the face, neck, shoulders, hands and arms, but they can occur on any part of the body that is frequently exposed to UV rays.

Spots that are raised or have an unusual appearance may be moles. Many moles are harmless, but some are cancerous. If any mole or spot on your skin suddenly changes appearance or texture, it is best to have it checked out by a doctor. Other signs you should watch for include age spots that are uneven in color or change color, have an uneven border or are asymmetrical. Skin abnormalities that are raised are of greater concern than ones that are flat, though many are benign. Any spot that is larger than a pencil eraser should also be examined. If skin cancer runs in your family, it is best to err on the side of caution and have all skin abnormalities checked.

Get Your Skin Spots Checked Out

A doctor can usually diagnose age spots based on a visual examination. If there is any doubt, however, that it is something else, a biopsy may be performed. During a biopsy, a small section of the spot is removed. It is then sent away to a lab for testing. The procedure is simple and provides accurate results regarding whether a spot is serious or harmless.

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