Age spots are also known as sun spots, liver spots, lentigos, or lentigines. These legions are flat, tan, brown, or dark brown spots on sun-exposed skin. As people age, sun spots most commonly appear on the backs of the hands, the forearms, neck, chest and face. Sun spots are associated with cumulative sun exposure. The evidence is very strong that ultra-violet light is the cause of most of the changes that we consider to be associated with aging of the skin.
Sun damage of the skin, also known as photo damage can be either acute, as in a sunburn or more commonly, chronic, seen as gradual changes in the skin caused by an accumulation of sun exposure throughout one’s life. The pigment producing cells in the skin (called melanocytes) are activated to produce more pigment (melanin) by ultraviolet rays. While sun spots are not themselves cancerous, you may be at risk for skin cancer if you have them. Chronic photo damage results in either a cosmetic change in the skin’s appearance called photo aging, or changes that are of medical and health concerns such as pre-cancerous lesions and skin cancers.
The best treatment for age spots is prevention – sun avoidance and daily sunscreen use. There are a number of treatment options available for those who have sun damage including chemical peels, laser resurfacing, light therapy, and bleaching creams.