Is it Melanoma or Age Spots? How to Tell the Difference

Blemish-free skin is one of the most sought-after things that humans desire. We often scrutinize ourselves to the max by being constantly surrounded by the media and its unnatural standards of beauty. But hold on, this scrutiny is not always all bad; it can also catch signs of the disease while they are still developing.

One of the most common confusion that arises over skin blemishes is whether it is the simple appearance of age spots or the more worrying signs of melanoma. Before you start freaking out, this article will give you a detailed run-through on how to tell the difference between both, just read on.

What’s That On Your Skin? – The Basics

Before we delve into the details of figuring out your skin condition, let us gather a basic understanding of what both melanoma and age spots are.

–      Age Spots

Age spots, as the name suggests, increase in quantity with the passage of time. Small, dark spots that lay flat against the skin, age spots commonly appear on the face, hands, arms, and shoulders and are the result of regular extended exposure to sunlight. As such, they can also be seen on any other body part that is exposed to the sun, such as your legs.

While people tend to get these marks, which are alternatively known as liver spots and sunspots, they are removed for aesthetic purposes and pose no harm to an individual’s health. However, due to their similar appearance, they are often mistaken as signs of cancerous growth.

–      Melanoma

Melanoma is a highly critical cancer of the skin that forms in melanin cells. While there is no clear cause of melanoma, its occurrence has been linked to excessive UV radiation exposure via sunlight and tanning beds.

Melanoma is present in the form of a growth on the skin, either from an existing mole or new, unblemished skin. Since melanomas are connected to UV radiation, they commonly appear on places that are exposed to the sun. However, this is not a limiting factor.

Melanoma or Age Spots – How to Tell them Apart

If a new spot on your skin results in you worrying your head sick, then you are not alone; most people tend to get confused between melanoma and age spots. To save yourself from the hassle and tension of this confusion, it is important to be able to differentiate amongst the two.

Here’s how to tell them apart:

–      Appearance

While age spots and melanoma are similar in terms of how they look, there are some discerning differences that can be identified when closely inspected.

Typically, age spots have smoother borders and are of a single colour. They also tend to form in groups. On the other hand, Melanoma has a mixture of darker colours that develop and change with time. It also inhibits irregular borders that give it a splotchy, spread out look.

–      Sensation

In terms of the sensations that age spots elicit, they are generally painless. However, the same cannot be said for melanoma, which tend to be itchy and painful, and in some instances, can also bleed.

–      Other

Of course, the appearance and sensation of the spots are significant factors that help differentiate their nature, but there are also other signs.

Age is one. Usually, melanoma targets individuals in the forty or below age range, as this is not a disease of the elderly, whereas age spots are a condition that occur in the ages of fifty and above. However, this is not to say that either condition is restricted by these age parameters as lifestyle and living conditions, among other influences, factor in.

Another differentiating factor is the speed with which these spots appear. Age spots take time to develop as they are a result of excessive sun exposure. Contrastingly, melanoma is known for its quick growth.

So, there you have it, a basic run-through of exactly how you can help discern whether the uninvited growth on your skin is just a reminder of your days in the sun or a worrisome mark of skin cancer. Of course, while these differentiating factors do hold a degree of accuracy, they do not act as replacements for a professional medical opinion. Therefore, it is highly recommended that in case of noticeable growth, individuals consult their medical practitioner at the earliest.


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