• You're all caught up!

Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin

author image Nicki Wolf
Nicki Wolf has been writing health and human interest articles since 1986. Her work has been published at various cooking and nutrition websites. Wolf has an extensive background in medical/nutrition writing and online content development in the nonprofit arena. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University.
Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin
Brown spots on the skin can be caused by a variety of things. Photo Credit face image by sasha from Fotolia.com


Brown spots on the skin generally do not indicate a cause for alarm. These naturally occurring features can appear as small brown blotches from exposure to ultraviolet light. Seborrheic keratoses also presents as brown spots on the skin. While they can appear alarming, these are also benign. Brown skin spots can indicate a more severe problem, however. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, often appears as brownish spots, and accounts for 77 percent of all deaths from skin cancer, according to SkinCancerNet.

Ultraviolet Light

CNN Health reports that ultraviolet light increases the production of melanin, a dark pigment in the skin. Brown spots on the skin, also referred to as liver spots, may occur when extra melanin clumps together. Exposure to sun and tanning beds, both of which emit ultraviolet light, can hasten the development of these liver spots; however, it often takes years for the pigment to become pronounced enough to notice. These harmless spots do not require treatment, but sufferers can use skin-bleaching products to lighten the spots.

You Might Also Like

Seborrheic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses, also called basal cell papillomas, senile warts or brown warts, appear as brown spots on the skin as people age, according to DermNet NZ. While usually not dangerous, these skin lesions sometimes resemble skin cancers. Suborrhoeic keratoses occurs as a byproduct of aging, and can appear following a sunburn or dermatitis. These lesions are easily removed using liquid nitrogen, curettage and cautery, laser surgery or shave biopsy.


Melanoma may appear as a changing mole with irregular borders in varying shades of brown, among other colors. SkinCancerNet says that this form of cancer has the highest likelihood of spreading to lymph nodes and internal organs. With early detection and treatment, however, 95 percent of melanoma cases are curable. Most forms of melanoma progress rapidly. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma treatment may include removal surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Brown Spot Symptoms

Age spots can develop in people with dark or light complexions. Medline Health suggests that these liver spots are very common in people over 40. Classic symptoms include: brown, gray or black spots; increased areas of pigmentation that are oval and flat; and are seen in skin that has increased sun exposure over the years, such as the shoulders, back of your hands, feet, face and your upper back, reports CNN Health.

Related Searches

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
THE LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate Nutrition, Workouts & Tips
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media