What is it? A solar lentigo (plural, solar lentigines), also known as a sun-induced freckle or “age spot”, is a dark (hyperpigmented) lesion caused by natural or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light. These lesions are commonly referred to as liver spots, although they do not come from liver disease. They may be single or multiple. This type of lentigo is different from a simple lentigo because it is caused by exposure to UV light. Solar lentigines are benign, but they do indicate excessive sun exposure, a risk factor for the development of skin cancer.

Who is at risk? Solar lentigines most commonly occur in fair-skinned older adults, particularly those who sunburn easily and fail to tan, but they may also occur in those younger than 35 years of age.

Signs and Symptoms- Solar lentigines typically appear on areas exposed to natural or artificial UV light, including the face, arms, back of the hands, and upper part of the trunk. They appear as well-defined flat spots, that range in color from yellow-tan to black, but are most commonly brown. Older lesions are often dark brown to black. Solar lentigines slowly increase in number and size and can form larger patches. Although these lesions are most common in older individuals, they are now seen in younger individuals because of their increased exposure to sun tanning and exposure to artificial sources of UV light, such as tanning beds. Although these lesions are sometimes called liver spots, they are not a result of systemic disease.

Self-Care Guidelines- To prevent solar lentigines, avoid exposure to sunlight, especially in midday (10 AM to 3 PM), wear sun-protective clothing (tightly woven clothes and hats), and apply sunscreen (SPF 30 UVA and UVB block).

Treatment- If solar lentigines are cosmetically bothersome, your physician may:
– Freeze the area lightly with liquid nitrogen
– Treat with IPL (a light treatment that is similar to laser).
– Prescribe a bleaching cream (hydroquinone).
– Recommend chemical peels
– Recommend over the counter bleaching products.

Robert S. Bader, M.D., Dermatologist

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