Many people experience some degree of sun damage over the course of their life. Individuals who spend (or spent) a lot of time outdoors in the sun without sunscreen or the proper clothing may be at greater risk, while fair skinned individuals may also be at increased risk of sun damage.

Symptoms of sun damage may be strictly cosmetic like wrinkles, or may be very serious like skin cancer. Treatment will depend on which symptoms are present and their severity.

Cosmetic Symptoms

The cosmetic symptoms of sun damage include sunburn, wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, uneven skin tone, freckles and the dilation of small blood vessels. While these symptoms alone may not be harmful, physicians often perform tests to determine if they are the sign of a more serious condition. Whether to receive treatment for cosmetic symptoms of sun damage is up to the individual. These symptoms, unless a sign of a more serious condition, are not considered life threatening and whether to receive treatment is a matter of personal preference.

Skin Cancer

The most serious result of sun damage is skin cancer. There are several types of skin cancer and patients should speak with a qualified physician if they believe they may have skin cancer.

Possible signs of skin cancer include new skin growths, changes to existing skin growths or sores that do not heal. Depending on the type of skin cancer, growths or sores may appear differently. Some growths appear as a firm red nodule or a flat, scaly, crusted lesion, while others may appear as a pearly, waxy bump or a brown, flat, scar-like lesion.

Melanoma is perhaps the most serious form of skin cancer and may appear as a large brownish spot with dark speckles, a mole that bleeds or changes in color, shape, size or feel, or as a small lesion with an abnormal border and spots. Melanoma may also appear as firm dome shaped bumps or as dark lesions.

Other skin cancers may appear differently. Those who believe they exhibit signs or symptoms associated with skin cancer should seek immediate medical advice.

Patients with cosmetic symptoms of sun damage and who are interested in treatment should speak with a skincare professional at a local dermatologist's office, family doctor's office, esthetician's clinic, medical spa or other facility.