The market for anti-aging products is thriving. Youth, or at least the appearance of it, is highly sought after. So, when age spots start appearing on your loved one’s skin or even your skin, chances are you’ve wondered how to get rid of them.
Maybe age spots have triggered other, less trivial thoughts. Are age spots dangerous? Can they be something more? Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it’s not beyond the realm of reason to think it might touch your life.
Can age spots indicate cancer? You might even wonder how skin cancer affects life insurance. But before you get too far down the rabbit hole of skin conditions, let’s review some basic information on age spots.
What are age spots?
Age spots are extra pigmentation from your body’s response to sun exposure. They typically present in fairer complexions. They can appear in your mid-30s and increase in likelihood as you age, hence the term “age spots.”
They appear as large, flat, darker markings on the skin, especially on areas frequently exposed to the sun. Age spots should be uniform in coloring and should not be raised. Metaphorically speaking, it’s easy to envision something like hail damage, but the UV rays’ damage to skin cells is often unseen.
Age spots, also called liver spots, used to be associated with liver damage. That connection has been disproven. However, the nickname remains, possibly because their coloring resembles the liver.
The medical name for sun spots is solar lentigines. The Latin word “solar” means sun, and “lentigines” mean lentils or beans. This name makes sense because age spots usually resemble the shape and size of a bean.
Can age spots turn into cancer?
Age spots cannot turn into cancer. Some cancers, however, can appear to be age spots. If there is any doubt about an age spot you see, or if something just doesn’t look right about it, always consult a medical professional.
Here are some warning signs to watch for when you think an age spot is actually something more:
- Bleeding or irritation
- Growth or change in shape
- Texture or raised surface
- Variations in coloring
A medical professional should evaluate age spots to determine whether they are age spots or cancerous lesions.
How can I prevent age spots?
Prevention is always easier and safer than treatment. The best way to prevent age spots is to practice safe sun exposure.
Wear sunscreen. Even using SPF 15 can effectively prevent sun damage, but SPF 30 is the standard recommendation. Get into the habit of wearing sunscreen while you are young before age spots appear.
Consider tinting your car windows to further block UV radiation when you’re behind the wheel.
Limit sun exposure during the highest sun concentrations. The sun’s concentration is highest between 11 am and 3 pm, so take extra precautions during those times. The earth also varies in its distance from the sun, so get a UV Index forecast to evaluate danger levels better.
Cover exposed skin. Clothing generally protects better than creams because people usually ignore instructions when applying creams. Not all clothing provides the same coverage, though.
As a general rule, the more vibrant and dark the clothing color, the better the UV-blocking power. Also, denser fabrics block damaging rays more efficiently than thin fabrics.
How can I treat age spots?
The good news is there are effective treatments for age spots. Treatments fall into two main categories: fading and removal. The basics involve topical creams and removing skin cells in one way or another.
Creams use complexion-evening strategies. Some focus on fading pigmentation, while others attempt to rebuild healthy cells. Some creams may be dangerous and are banned in other countries; thoroughly research your options before consistent use.
Besides creams, surface removal and skin regrowth are also effective. Different tactics aim to remove darkened skin and regrow healthier, non-discolored skin. Laser treatment pinpoints discolored cells without damaging the skin’s surface.
Dermabrasion and chemical peels get rid of layers of skin to allow new skin to replace the discolored skin.
Are age spots a cause for concern?
Age spots are benign themselves, but they should warn the bearer that their skin is sensitive to sun exposure. The next spot might not be benign. If you want to be around long enough to see your new business flourish or to cash in that retirement check, take care of your skin today.
Consult with a dermatologist to establish your normal skin patterns and provide a baseline to watch for changes and concerns. This article is not intended to replace medical advice. Always consult a medical professional to evaluate your own age spots or areas of skin concern.
Maria Hanson writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. She is a health enthusiast with a passion for helping people find their best life insurance fit.