Woman's back with moles.

Age Spots vs. Melanoma: What Are the Differences?

Aging causes numerous changes in your body, both inside and on the surface. Age spots are one of these changes. Even very young people in certain cases can develop age spots, and there is usually no reason to worry. However, in certain cases, they can transform into a serious condition known as melanoma. Today, we are here to help you understand the differences between age spots and melanoma. Stay tuned.

How Do Age Spots Look Like?

Age spots (also known as liver spots or solar lentigines) are flat, tan, brown, or black spots that typically appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. They are more common in older adults, hence the name “age spots,” but can also develop in younger individuals who have had significant sun exposure.

Age spots occur due to an accumulation of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, in the upper layers of the skin. This accumulation is often the result of prolonged exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds, which stimulates melanin production.

Fair-skinned individuals are more prone to age spots because they have less melanin to begin with and are more susceptible to UV damage. While age spots are harmless and do not require treatment, they can be a cosmetic concern for some people. Preventative measures like UV protection, can lower the risk of developing age spots.

Melanoma Spots

Melanoma spots are a type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin. They can occur anywhere on the skin but are more commonly found in sun-exposed areas. Melanoma spots are characterized by their irregular shape, uneven color, and asymmetry. They can vary in size and may appear as a new mole or an existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color.

Melanoma is more common in individuals with fair skin, a history of sunburns, a family history of melanoma, or a weakened immune system. Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment, as melanoma can metastasize to other parts of the body if not treated early. Melanoma is usually diagnosed through the examination of a skin lesion, followed by a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. If left untreated, melanoma can be dangerous and progress to more advanced stages.

Age Spots vs Melanoma: Key Differences

Age spots and melanoma are two different skin conditions with distinct characteristics. Let’s take a look at each of their differences: 

1. Fast Changes of Skin Spots

One key difference is how quickly the spots change. Age spots typically develop slowly over time and remain relatively stable in size, color, and shape. In contrast, melanoma spots can change rapidly, with noticeable changes in size, color, or shape within a short period, which is concerning and requires prompt medical attention. 

2. Itchy Skin Spots

Itchy spots are not typically associated with age spots but can be a symptom of melanoma. If you have an age spot that becomes itchy, it could be a sign of melanoma and should be evaluated by a dermatologist. 

3. Painful Skin Spots

Pain is also not a common characteristic of age spots but can occur with melanoma. Melanoma spots may be tender, painful, or cause discomfort, especially if they have grown deeper into the skin or spread to nearby tissues. 

4. Size, Color and Border of Skin Spot

Age spots are usually small, round, and flat, with uniform color and well-defined borders. On the other side, melanoma spots may be larger, irregularly shaped, and have uneven coloring with blurry or jagged borders. 

5. Asymmetry of Age Spot

Age spots are typically symmetrical, while melanoma spots often exhibit asymmetry.

Bottom Line

If you notice any of these differences in your skin, it’s important to seek medical help to determine the accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only. For professional advice, consult your physician.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is melanoma flat or raised?

Melanoma can present in various ways, and it can be either flat or raised. In its early stages, melanoma often appears as a flat, discolored spot on the skin that may resemble a mole. However, as melanoma progresses, it can become raised and develop into a more pronounced bump or nodule. The texture of melanoma can vary, ranging from smooth to rough or scaly. It’s important to note that the appearance of melanoma can differ widely among individuals, so any new, changing, or suspicious skin lesions should be evaluated by a dermatologist. 


Are age spots rough to touch?

These spots are typically not rough to the touch. Their texture can vary depending on individual factors such as skin type and sun damage. In some cases, age spots may feel slightly raised or have a different texture compared to the surrounding skin, but they are generally smooth and do not cause any discomfort. 


Do age spots get bigger?

Age spots can vary in size and may gradually get bigger over time. Still, their growth is usually slow and incremental. Sun exposure and aging can contribute to the development and enlargement of age spots. Nevertheless, not all age spots will necessarily increase in size, and some may remain steady for a long time.