Can Age Spots Be Cancerous? (Melanoma VS Age Spots and Much More)

Have you ever noticed a new spot on your skin and wondered if it is a sign of skin cancer?

Can age spots become cancerous?

Do you know how to look out for signs of cancer on your skin and when to visit a doctor?

Are you worried that what you feel are age spots could actually be signs of cancer?

With so many people suffering from cancer and skin cancer in recent times, more and more people are getting concerned about any spots or moles that might appear on the skin. If you too want to make sure that you are safe and would like to track any changes or potential risk at the earliest, we tell you in detail about can age spots turn into skin cancer, how to spot the difference in age spots and skin cancer signs, what do different types of skin cancer look like and any warning signs that you should definitely tell your doctor about.

So let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about age spots and cancer and help you with the information.

Why you need to be vigilant about changes in your body

age spots and melanoma
  • The skin is the largest organ that covers the outer part of your body.
  • It is also one of the first parts of the body where you will notice signs of skin cancer, if any.
  • Not just that, if you have any health issue that you are not aware of, you can often see the signs on your skin.
  • For instance, if you are suffering from any allergies that you are not aware of, you will most likely break out in a rash, which is one of the first signs that you can notice on your skin.
  • Our skin has moles and spots that may be there from the time of birth, or may have developed over the years. However, if you are in perfect health, these usually do not change in appearance. But if there is any health issue, especially signs of skin cancer, you can almost always spot them by the changes in your moles and age spots.
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but its early detection can help you get treatment at the earliest stage, which can make it possible to cure skin cancer. This is the easiest way to spot the difference between age spots and melanoma.

What changes should you look for?

To understand whether the spots on your skin are age spots or skin cancer, here are some of the things you should definitely look for when doing self-examination on your skin.

age spots or skin cancer
  • Look for any new spots or changes in the skin, anything that you notice different from earlier.
  • If you notice any spot, even if it is very small and does not hurt or cause any discomfort, bring it to your doctor’s notice.
  • Any change in the existing spots, or even if you notice a small bump or lump on the skin needs to be discussed with your doctor.

How to tell the difference between skin cancer and age spots

When you have spots on your skin, it can be difficult to understand if they are simple age spots or more serious signs of skin cancer. However, with regular self-examination and getting yourself examined by the doctor, you can surely start to understand the difference between age spots and skin cancer. Here are a few ways in which you can tell the difference between the two.

Here’s how age spots look like:

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    Age spots are usually flat on the surface of the skin.
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    These can vary in colour from being black to light brown, dark brown and even grey.
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    Age spots can be of different shapes but most of the time will look like freckles.
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    These can also look like patches on your skin that are suffering from discolouration, especially if there are a lot of age spots that look as if they have clumped together.
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    Age spots only remain on the surface of the skin and do not penetrate inside.

Here’s how skin cancer spots look like:

difference between age spots and melanoma
  • Spots that are signs of skin cancer or melanoma will often start off as a small growth on your skin.
  • These can be big or small but in most cases will look a little protruding, as they tend to extend upwards from the main layer on your skin.
  • Cancerous spots will often have irregular or jagged edges.
  • Also, unlike age spots, these can change in shape or appearance and colour, and may also have changes in texture. These spots will usually grow in size as the skin cancer progresses.
  • Cancerous spots penetrate into the lower layers of the skin.

What are the different types of age spots and what do they look like?

A lot of people are confused between age spots and melanoma, and one way to ensure you know what the spot on your skin is to understand the different types of age spots:

age spots and cancer
  • Seborrheic keratosis: Raised age spots are also known as seborrheic keratosis and are mostly black or brown in colour. Most of the time, raised age spots look like a wart that has grown on your skin. It also looks as if the wart has been stuck separately on the skin. These types of age spots are mostly harmless and you do not require any medical help. However, you are in any pain or discomfort you need to get them tested. 
  • Actinic keratosis: These types of raised age spots look like warts on your skin, but are thicker and rougher than the type of age spots that are known as seborrheic keratosis. These age spots are mostly red in colour and it is recommended that you get them tested by your skin specialist, to rule out any possibility of skin cancer. Scaly age spots are also a sign of actinic keratoses and it is important that you get it tested immediately by your dermatologist or cancer specialist.
  • Cherry angiomas: The raised age spots that are known as as cherry angiomas are mostly bright red in colour. These are usually smaller in size as compared to the other raised age spots that can usually be bigger and thicker. Cherry angiomas are caused when your blood vessels get dilated. Most of the age spots that are found on the skin are actually a type of cherry angiomas. You can usually see these on the torso and are generally harmless.
  • Telangiectasia: These raised age spots are caused when the blood vessels in your face become dilated.
  • Skin tags: Skin tags are the raised age spots that look like small parts of the skin that are projecting outwards. These can have an irregular or smooth texture. Most skin tags will either be almost the same colour as your skin or be more highly pigmented. These are mostly raised above the area of skin on which they appear. Sometimes, the skin tags can even have a type of stalk attached to them that seems as if the thing is hanging from the skin. These raised age spots are benign.

If you ever asked yourself can age spots turn into cancer, the best way to know is to get your skin spots tested by a skin specialist or a cancer specialist.

What are the different types of skin cancer and what do they look like? 

If you are wondering are age spots dangerous check these types of skin cancers and how they look like.

  • Actinic keratosis (AK): Mostly seen on those with fair skin and after the age of 40. Usually on areas that are exposed to sun such as head, face, arms, neck.
  • Actinic cheilitis (farmer’s lip): This is more of a precancerous condition that appears on the lower lip. It looks like a scaly patch or roughness on some part of the lip.
  • Cutaneous horns: This is a specialized type of actinic keratosis that looks like a funnel shaped growth usually from a red base on the skin. It is usually a few millimetres in length but can vary.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): Mostly in people with fairer skin but can also be found on those with darker skin. It looks like a small pink patch of skin which can also be flesh-coloured and have a tiny bump.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Again, these are more common in those with fair skin and can look like a scaly patch or a red bump that is firm. It can also look like a wound that opens and heals and opens again and again. This mostly appears on the rim of the ear, the face, neck, arms and back and areas that are more exposed to the sun.
  • Melanoma: This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and develops like a mole or a sudden new dark spot on the skin.

What are the symptoms or warning signs of skin cancer?

If you want to know are age spots dangerous and to make sure that the spots you see on your skin are not cancerous and that you get the required treatment at the earliest, watch out for the following warning signs and some common symptoms of skin cancer you should be aware of:

  • Unusual growth on the skin
  • A sore that does not seem to heal or go away
  • A nodule on the skin
  • A rash or irregular patch that appears on the skin
  • Raised spots or flat spots that bleed, ooze some discharge or are painful or uncomfortable

What are harmless spots?

are age spots dangerous

As you grow older, your skin goes through a lot of damage and changes, and there are a lot of appearances of bumps, spots, growths and moles on the skin. The good news is that most of these are actually harmless.

In some cases, it is possible to have coloured skin spots or even warts or skin tags from the time of birth, or can develop through the years, without being cancerous. Many spots are actually birthmarks that are harmless, and will either go away with age, or stick around. These can change shape and size with age, but will mostly remain the same.

To make sure that the spots that you see on the skin are harmless, keep observing them from time to time and if you notice any sudden changes or have any pain or discomfort, get them tested by a skin specialist.

How can you decide whether or not the age spots may be cancerous? Why is it important to visit a skin specialist or a doctor to be sure?

Any mole, rash, bump or lesion that you see on the skin should be shown to your doctor to make sure that it is just a regular spot on the skin and not something cancerous.

  • Early detection of skin cancer is very important, as with the right diagnosis and treatment at the right time, skin cancer can be fully cured.
  • Also, if you have recently noticed any changes in your skin, it is important that you talk about it to your doctor and get it tested.
  • Over the years as your skin suffers through damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and other pollutants, it is likely that you develop certain age spots and other rashes or growths on the skin.
  • If you see a new patch of discoloration on the skin, whether or not it looks like spots or freckles, get it tested.
  • If you have earlier noticed your mole to be of a certain shape, size, color or appearance, but it now looks different, it is important to get that tested too.
  • It is possible too that you have some mole on the skin for a long time, and now you notice that it has a crusty or rough appearance to it, or bleeds. Get that tested.

Many people suffer from skin cancer, but this is also the most easily avoidable and curable type of cancer. Be alert, regularly check your skin for warning signs and get an annual examination done.


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