Everyday exposure to the sun takes its toll on your skin over the years, commonly manifesting in the form of age spots. These flat spots develop when color-producing cells in your skin multiply due to long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
They often resemble large freckles and usually appear in areas that receive the most sun exposure, such as your face, forearms, shoulders and backs of your hands. Age spots are not cancerous, and they do not normally cause itchiness or other symptoms. But age spots can resemble cancerous or precancerous skin growths.
See your doctor if you have an age spot that is itchy and/or changing in appearance to be sure it is not skin cancer or another type of growth that could turn into skin cancer.
Age Spot Versus Skin Cancer
Though it can be difficult to tell an age spot apart from skin cancer, there are several subtle ways you can differentiate between the two. When in doubt, though, always consult your doctor. Here are three signs to check for:
Rate of Growth
Age spots typically develop slowly and can gradually increase in size over time. If you have several age spots in one area, some may eventually blend together to form larger spots. Cancerous and precancerous skin spots also grow over time, usually at a faster rate than age spots and with other changes in appearance.
Age spots can range in color from yellowish to dark brown. The shades are often variable within the same spot, which is also a characteristic of the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma. However, melanoma often has a greater range of color that may include shades of red, white and/or blue in addition to tan or brown.
Itchiness and Other Symptoms
While age spots do not cause itchiness, it's possible to have an itchy age spot for other reasons. For example, your skin may be sensitive to a new soap, making the age spots itchy.
While there may be another explanation for age spot itchiness, it could also be that what appears to be an age spot is actually something more serious. Skin cancer and precancerous skin spots often cause itchiness and may bleed easily, so it's important not to ignore these symptoms.
Age spots are harmless and do not require treatment, but they can be an annoyance. Talk with your doctor if you are interested in cosmetic therapies to diminish the appearance of age spots.