Age Spots vs Melanoma: When Should You Be Worried?

Have you noticed any spots on your skin and are worried whether it is dangerous?

Have you noticed any change in earlier skin spots and want to know what this is?

Many people confuse age spots with cancerous spots and it can be quite scary when you are unsure of what kind of spot you have. Today, we discuss in detail about age spots as well as melanoma spots, what causes them, what they look like, and when you need to visit a medical expert.

Does the appearance of spots on the skin mean anything? Could this sometimes be good and sometimes bad?

Many times, it is common to find new spots appear on your skin that are actually more like a rash or a blemish caused by acne and pimple.

However, if you notice spots that look like moles and appear to be new, or if you notice changes in the spots or moles that were already there, it is important to examine it a little more to make sure everything is in order.

What are age spots? What do they look like? 

Age spots are also known as liver spots and look like small dark spots. These will most often show up on the areas of the skin that get the most amount of exposure to the harmful rays of the sun.

difference of age spots and melanoma
  • Age spots are mostly flat and will look like a spot of pigmented skin in contrast to your skin’s natural colour. These will be darker in colour than your regular skin tone.
  • They can either be round or oval in shape.
  • Age spots can be light brown, dark brown, tan or even black in colour.
  • Most age spots are as big as a freckle and an individual age spot can measure up to half an inch.
  • Sometimes, if you have a number of age spots at the same place, these can form into a cluster and appear like a larger patch of pigmented skin.

Where do age spots appear? 

Age spots can appear anywhere on your body, but you will notice these most on those areas of the skin that get regular exposure to the sun. You can notice age spots mostly on your face, the back of the hand, the palm, on the upper arms, the neck, the shoulder and sometimes even on the back.

What causes age spots? 

The main reason for age spots to appear is when your body produces more melanin than is required. Melanin is the pigment that is responsible for giving your complexion its natural colour. Here are some things that could cause age spots to appear.

what is melanoma
  • Production of excess melanin by your skin
  • When your body produces more of the hormone oestrogen, this can also lead to age spots.
  • Eating too much unsaturated fats or having too much iron intake can make age spots appear.
  • Free radical damage can harm the skin cells and lead to premature ageing, which can also cause age spots to appear.
  • Regularly being exposed to the rays of the sun can trigger the appearance of age spots.
  • Those who use tanning methods such as tanning beds can also see more age spots.

Are age spots dangerous or could they indicate an underlying condition?

There is no medical or scientific evidence that suggests that age spots are dangerous. If you do see age spots, you should keep the following in mind:

  • People who already have age spots may have a higher risk of getting melanoma, or skin cancer, at some point in life.
  • Age spots that look like small raised spots and are brown or black in colour are not usually dangerous.
  • Those age spots that look like small raised bumps and are usually reddish in colour are not considered dangerous.

To make sure that the spots you have are age spots and do not point towards any other underlying condition, it is important to get it examined once by a dermatologist.

What are melanoma spots? What do they look like? 

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Melanoma spots can resemble blemishes, moles, markings, sores or even lumps.

what are age spots
  • Melanoma spots will be asymmetrical, where one half of the mole will look different from the other half in some way, such as of a different shade of colour, different shape or texture and so on.
  • The borders of melanoma spots will be irregular and can be blurred or ragged.
  • A melanoma spot will not be of the same colour throughout the same spot. For instance, some part of it may be whitish, while the other may be pinkish. The most common colours seen in melanoma spots include pink, white, brown, black, red and sometimes even blue.
  • If the spot is because of melanoma, it will be about 1/4th of an inch, but sometimes can even be smaller.
  • A melanoma spot will keep changing in its colour, shape or size as the condition progresses.

Where do melanoma spots appear? 

Melanoma spots can appear on any part of the body and is very common in areas such as your neck, the upper torso, your legs especially the lower legs and even on the head and back.

In some cases, melanoma spots will develop around moles that you already had, or will develop directly from spots that you had since earlier.

What causes melanoma spots? 

The most common cause of melanoma spots is exposure to the harmful rays of the sun.

causes of age spots or melanoma
  • For those who are regularly out in the sun, the damage from the UVA and the UVB rays of the sun could increase the risk of melanoma spots.
  • People who have suffered sunburn and sun blisters early in life are more prone to developing melanoma spots.
  • Those who regularly use tanning beds are also at a high risk.

Are melanoma spots dangerous or could they indicate an underlying condition?

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and melanoma spots should be treated with the utmost medical urgency.

If diagnosed and treated in its initial stage, melanoma can be cured almost completely.

What are 3 easy ways to distinguish between an age spot and melanoma?

Here are 3 differences that can help you understand whether the spots you see are age spots or melanoma spots:

1. The age at which they appear: 

Age spots will usually appear once you have crossed your middle age, whereas melanoma spots can appear at any time in adults.

age spots vs melanoma

2. Part of the body where these spots appear: 

Age spots are mostly seen on those areas of the skin that are most exposed to the sun’s rays, such as on the face, the back of the hand, the palm, upper arm, the shoulders and the neck. While melanoma spots can also be seen on these parts of the body, these also appear on the ears and even on the scalp.

3. Whether or not the spots ooze: 

Age spots will not ooze and you will not see any discharge coming out of these. On the other hand, spots that are a sign of melanoma can often crack and bleed, and may also discharge some fluid.


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