Age spots (liver spots)

Age spots — also called liver spots and solar lentigines — are flat tan, brown or black spots. They vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms — areas most exposed to the sun.

Age spots are very common in adults older than age 50. But, younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun.

Although age spots can look like cancerous growths, true age spots are harmless and don't need treatment. For cosmetic reasons, age spots can be lightened with skin-bleaching products or removed. However, preventing age spots — by avoiding the sun and using sunscreen — may be the easiest way to maintain your skin's youthful appearance.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Age spots typically develop in people with a fair complexion, but they can be seen in those with darker skin. Age spots:

  • Are flat, oval areas of increased pigmentation
  • Are usually tan, brown or black
  • Occur on skin that has had the most sun exposure over the years, such as the backs of hands, tops of feet, face, shoulders and upper back

Age spots range from freckle size to more than 1/2 inch (13 millimeters) across and can group together, making them more prominent.

When to see a doctor

You may not like the way they look, but age spots are usually harmless and don't require medical care. However, your doctor should evaluate spots that are dark or have changed in appearance, because these changes can be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

It's best to have any new skin changes evaluated by a doctor, especially if a spot or lesion:

  • Is darkly pigmented
  • Is rapidly increasing in size
  • Has an irregular border
  • Has an unusual combination of colors
  • Is accompanied by itching, redness, tenderness or bleeding

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