As you get older you may notice more small brown spots appearing on your hands, face, arms or other places on your body that are regularly exposed to the sun. These spots are a natural part of ageing. They appear as areas of hyperpigmentation, caused by pigment-producing cells being triggered by years of exposure to the sun.
Sunspots do not sit above the skin at all, they are smooth and cannot be differentiated from the rest of your skin by touch. Sunspots are like scars of your cells cause by injury from the sun. While they may not be dangerous, you should still pay attention when you see a new one appear.
Skin cancers can look very similar to sunspots in their early stages. What you think is a new sunspot may be a newly developing skin cancer, which has the potential to grow into something lethal. Sunspots are a result of overproduced skin pigment, skin cancers are caused by reproducing cells that are developing in abnormal ways. If left untreated the reproducing cells will spread through your body through a process called metastasis. This spread can cause other health issues and even result in death.
Telling the difference between sunspots and skin cancers can be life saving. Below explains how to identify the subtle differences early on.
Sunspots vs. Skin Cancers
Sunspots are a direct result of long sun exposure to particular parts of your skin. Melanoma (the most fatal type of skin cancer) however, can appear anywhere, even on parts of your body that has very little or no contact with sunlight. This is one crucial difference that can help you determine a sunspot from a skin cancer.
Another method to figure out whether a spot on your skin is a sunspot of skin cancer is to check it against the ABCDE criteria. ABCDE is a method developed by cancer researchers and used worldwide to assess suspicious skin spots and growths. Follow ABCDE to look for:
The shape of the skin or mole in question does not have matching halves.
The edges of the skin or mole are not clear. The color seems ragged or blurred, or may have spread into surrounding skin.
The color is uneven. Different colors such as black, brown, tan, white, grey, pink, red or blue may be seen.
If the suspicious skin or mole changes in size there may be a problem. Increasing is more regular, but shrinking may also occur. Melanomas are typically a minimum of ¼ inch, or the size of a pencil eraser.
New moles or strange patches of skin, or clear changes of a mole should be paid serious attention.
New updates to this detection method has been released by the Cancer Council to include 3 more characteristics (EFG) to track:
ELEVATED moles that seem to stick out further on your skin.
FIRM moles that are hard when you touch them.
GROWING moles that are increasing in size rapidly.
Even with these instructional aids it can be very difficult to differentiate between sunspots and early stage skin cancers without advanced medical training. This is a problem because any delay in identifying a skin cancer can lead to exponentially growing risk, as cancerous cells reproduce at an increasing rate and potentially spread to other body regions. Changes in your skin should be examined by a professional as soon as possible.
Sunspots as an indicator of skin cancer risk
If you are susceptible to sunspots you are generally more likely to be at risk of skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to sun causes sunspots but is also the cause of many skin cancers. Sunspots are actually a great warning sign that you are at risk. If you notice a new spot or numerous new spots it may be a signal that you should have your skin examined. Professionals can more easily identify the subtle differences that makes a dark spot cancerous.
If you are prone to sunspots it may be wise to have your skin screened on a regular basis. Most people should have their skin checked once a year, but you may want to increase the frequency of your checks if you have sunspots to have a professional eye keep track of the changes that you may not notice.
If you have noticed changes in your skin, with more sunspots appearing or a suspicious look to one of your spots, you should call and schedule an appointment with MoleSafe today.