Liver Spots

September 15, 2011

Solar lentigines, also known as “liver spots,” “age spots,” or “sun spots,” are among the most common benign, pigmented lesions of the skin. These light tan to dark brown colored spots develop in areas of the greatest sun exposure of the skin, especially the face, backs of hands, forearms, and upper trunk in elderly persons. They differ from ordinary “freckles,” which often start in childhood and may fade or even disappear with avoidance of sunlight. Solar lentigines (singular form: lentigo) occur in over 90% of those over 70 years of age, and become more common with age. However, they may also develop in younger persons with high exposures to sunlight or tanning beds, especially people with fair complexions.

Although harmless, solar lentigines result from high-intensity or cumulative sun exposure and may be associated with other signs of sun damage to the skin, including skin cancers. In addition, because solar lentigines often have irregular borders, and can be greater than 1 cm in diameter, occasionally they may appear similar to cutaneous melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Cosmetic treatments, including topical creams, chemical peels, liquid nitrogen, and laser therapies, may improve the appearance of solar lentigines. Protection from the sun, including avoidance of direct sunlight and use of sunscreens with high ultraviolet sun protective factors, will help prevent the recurrence of lentigines. Protection from sun exposure also plays an important role in the prevention of sun-damaged skin, especially when started early in life.

SEE ALSO: Melanoma, Skin disorders, Wrinkles

Suggested Reading

  • Bolognia, J. L. (1993). Dermatologic and cosmetic concerns of the older woman. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 9(1), 209-229.
  • Rhoades, A. R. (1999). Benign neoplasias and hyperplasia of melanocytes. In I. M. Freedberg, A. Z. Eisen, K. Wolff, K. F. Austen, L. A. Goldsmith, S. I. Katz, et al. (Eds.), Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine (5th ed., pp. 1047-1051). New York: McGraw-Hill.


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