What is a Solar Lentigo?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2016
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A solar lentigo is a benign, flat, light to darkish brown growth that may appear on the skin singly. Alternately some people have many of them and in the plural form, these are called lentigines. These spots are sometimes confused with freckles, but they’re really more associated with age and with exposure to UV rays. In fact, they often earn the names of age or liver spots instead.

As mentioned, a solar lentigo is an expression of exposure to UV rays, which means that though they are generally not cancerous, they do indicate damage that is precursor to other cancerous conditions. Like benign moles, lentigines usually are nearly symmetrical, a single color and have no ragged edges. They also are flat up against the skin and don’t tend to be raised. Should a solar lentigo appear differently, this could be an indication of a different skin condition, and people should keep an eye on any of these for rapid changes in color or growth.

Ordinarily, those with a solar lentigo or more than one are likely to have paler skin, and be among the folks who easily get sunburned when outside. Common places of appearance for these spots include on the face, neck, hands, arms, or even on the back or chest, especially among those who regularly swim or participate in outdoor activities with lower cut tops or in swimwear. On the back, they are particularly prone to appear in large number.


Once these lesions occur, it can be hard to get rid of them, and more may appear over time. Best bets for preventing them include always using sunscreen and wearing clothing that covers the skin. Avoiding sun exposure during the hottest part of the day is advisable too. Clearly, activities like tanning, indoors or outdoors, may create significant risk of a solar lentigo developing later on, though it could be years in between skin damage and appearance of lentigines.

There are a few potential treatments of a solar lentigo. Some find that they can be removed with chemical peel treatments or with laser treatments or freezing, cryotherapy. Sadly, less aggressive treatments like bleaching agents such as hydroquinone have not been shown to be particularly effective.

This may make it difficult to remove a constellation of solar lentigines as might appear on the back or chest. Dermatologists are the best source of advice for determining optimum treatments based on size and profuse nature of brown spots on the skin, and they should also be consulted about any new spots or changes to spots. Such consults could catch early expression of various forms of skin cancer.


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