Sun Spots – Misconceptions and Facts

Sun Spots, also known as age spots and liver spots often occur in skin that is aging. However the most common belief is that these blemishes are a sign of skin cancer. To the untrained eye, these blemishes are impossible to differentiate from other skin marks like liver spots, and are also confused with moles (small congenital growths on the human skin, usually slightly raised and dark), lentigos (small brownish spots of the skin), etc.

Basically there are three main kinds of skin cancer. The first two are called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma; these are caused by DNA damage of the direct type. Malignant Melanoma is the third sort of skin cancer that occurs when the DNA suffers indirect damage. Now basal cell carcinoma is a smooth kind of bump, like a pearl, on the head, neck and shoulders which are directly exposed to the sun. This kind of cancer can also bleed; it is less deadly and can, if detected early, heal fast. Squamous cell carcinoma is more dangerous and is a reddish patch that develops on the skin. The most deadly kind of skin cancer is melanoma, appearing as brown and black lesions on the skin. If you notice a mole or wart change in size, shape or appearance it is advisable to get it checked. These signs may appear with itching, bleeding or the growth of an ulcer. So you can see that age spots do not automatically mean that there is skin cancer. Actually these blemishes in themselves are benign, not cancerous. They are harmless, but since the skin cells are weakened by the liver spots, they may turn cancerous.

Another common myth is that skin cancer is caused by age spots. That is not true either. However since these liver spots first appear indicating that the skin cells have become weak in that very spot and cancer may develop in that spot, this myth has gained its followers. Since sun spots and skin cancers both arise from the same cause, the damage of DNA by the sun’s ultra violet rays, these myths have arisen. If you have sun spots, it is obvious that you have been in the sun for too long. If you have exposed your skin to the ultra violet rays, you are at risk of getting cancer. And the areas that have these age spots are darker and will absorb more sun rays, giving rise to cancer in those areas.

There are other kinds of skin marks other than sun spots, like moles, birth marks, lentigos, etc. and these are also confused with liver spots. Some of them are very similar to melanoma marks in appearance, and doctors play safe and advise removal through surgery. It is generally advised to observe the mole, if it is fast growing, then it is dangerous. So, even though sun spots by themselves are not dangerous, you definitely are at risk of developing skin cancer if your skin suffers from them. There are other skin blemishes that look like these sun spots and only a trained medical eye can tell the difference so consult your dermatologist regarding them.

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