Sun spots, also called age spots, liver spots, lentigos or lentigines, are flat, brown or tan spots on sun exposed skin. They are most common on the back of the hands, forearms, neck, chest and face. They become more common as people age, especially in those who spend a lot of time in the sun.

Prevalence with Age

Sun spots appear more and more as people age, which is why some people call them age spots. However, they are not caused by getting older, but rather by the sun. Sun spots are often a long-term effect of excessive sun exposure in one's younger years. As people age, they are consequently subjected to more and more exposure to the sun and sun damage, which leads to symptoms such as sun spots.

Caused by the Sun

The sun is to blame for sun spots on the skin. Melanin pigment in the skin absorbs sunlight and works to protect us from the sun's UV rays. When people age, their ability to fight UV rays is decreased, leading to sun spots. Fair skinned individuals who do not have as much melanin pigment as dark skinned individuals may be at greater risk of developing sun spots. This is because the skin does not respond properly to the sun's rays and abnormal melanin pigment forms. Any new growths or lesions, changes to existing growths or sores that do not heal should be reported to a qualified physician, as this may be a sign of cancer. While having sun spots does not mean that one has cancer, it may put the individual at a greater risk of cancer.