Sun spots, also known as solar lentigines (or solar lentigo in the singular form) are flat, dark spots that occur on skin. What causes sun spots on the skin? Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes sun spots. This can occur by direct or indirect exposure to the sun or a man made source of UV rays such as a tanning bed or welding torch. Almost everyone will eventually get sun spots. They tend to begin to appear around the age of 40, although they can occur at younger ages as well. They are more common and can appear with more frequency on those with fairer skin. To educate those interested, we’ve put together this article about solar lentigines.
How Are Sun Spots Formed?
Sun spots are created when there is a concentration of melanin in a specific section of the skin. Melanin is created by pigment producing cells known as melanocytes which are activated when exposed to UV rays. In sun spots, the melanocytes themselves do not reproduce, they simply create more melanin when stimulated by UV ray exposure.
Are Sun Spots Cancerous?
Actual sun spots are not cancerous and will not become cancerous. That said, early stages of skin cancer may appear like a sun spot. Skin cancers tend to begin as a flat brown patch – very similar to what a sun spot looks like. For this reason, it can be difficult to properly assess early stages of skin cancer on people with large patches of sun spots. If you and your doctor can become familiar with the pattern of you sun spots it will be easier to detect any changes or the appearance of suspicious skin markings.
Can Sun Spots Be Removed?
Although true sun spots don’t pose any danger, some people want to get rid of them for cosmetic purposes. There are many at-home treatments with varying levels of effectiveness. They typically require the topical application of one of many household products such as milk, tea, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar and more. There is also a wide variety of professional treatments which can reduce the conspicuousness of sun spots. These include Intense Pulsed Light (IPL,) laser resurfacing, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microneedling and more. Speak to your dermatologist or skin care professional to find out more.