Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sun Spots, Age Spots: Is There Anything You Can Do to Stop Brown Skin Patches?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sun Spots, Age Spots: Is There Anything You Can Do to Stop Brown Skin Patches?

Article excerpt

Sun spots, age spots mottle aging skin


TORONTO - Middle age often carries with it a number of advantages, one of which is a clearer complexion. But as acne becomes a distant memory for most people, other issues arise to plague aging skin.

Sun spots, age spots, liver spots, granny warts -- whatever you call them, brown pigmented spots are common eruptions as we age.

Dermatologists don't use these terms, knowing that what one person calls a liver spot another will call an age spot. But assessing and excising these pigmented spots is a daily event for skin doctors.

"Pigmented lesions and brown spots are a huge part of dermatology," says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto dermatologist who works at the clinic DLK on Avenue.

"Sometimes they just want reassurance," Kellett says of the patients she sees with these skin spots. "And other times they say, 'You know, I really hate the look of this; can you get rid of it for me?'"

There are two main types of these pigmented brown spots, solar lentigines and seborrheic keratoses. The good news is that both are benign; they are not early manifestations of skin cancer.

But people should not self-diagnose what they are seeing, Kellett says. She tells her patients she wants to see them if they develop new spots or moles, or if existing ones change.

Dr. Benjamin Barankin agrees.

Medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre, Barankin says these types of pigmented brown spots are not directly linked to a higher risk of skin cancer. But these spots pop out when people are older -- which is also the time when the risk of developing cancerous melanomas increases.

As well, people who have these spots may become complacent -- taking reassurance from the fact they were once told those ugly brown patches aren't skin cancer -- and miss a melanoma hiding among an array of pigmented spots on their backs, Barankin says.

So what are solar lentigines and seborrheic keratoses?

Let's start with lentigines. You may never have heard the term, but if you can picture the hands of an elderly white adult, you probably know what they are.

As freckles can dust the nose and the cheeks of some fair-skinned folks, brown spots can mottle the skin on the back of some aging hands. …

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