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 brown, black or gray
- 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 a half inch (1 centimeter) 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:
Feb. 24, 2011
- 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
- Goldstein BG, et al. Overview of benign lesions of the skin. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 13, 2010.
- Schaffer JV, et al. Benign pigmented skin lesions other than melanocytic nevi (moles). http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 13, 2010.
- Ortonne JP et al. Treatment of solar lentigines. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2006;54:S262.
- Melanoma (malignant melanoma). The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec10/ch128/ch128e.html. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010.
- Kang HY, et al. The role of topical retinoids in the treatment of pigmentary disorders: An evidence-based review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2009;10:251.
- Draelos ZD. Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy. Dermatologic Therapy. 2007;20:308.
- Facts about sunscreens. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media/background/factsheets/fact_sunscreen.htm. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010.
- Sun-protective clothing: Wear it well. Federal Trade Commission. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt094.shtm. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010.