What can I do about these aging spots?

Upperwest asked...

As I age, I am getting little black spots on my body and they are now coming on my face. My doctor said it's a product of aging. Is there anything I can do about this?

Expert Answer

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery. In addition to her work in private practice, Krant is assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

If these spots are truly 'age spots' as your doctor has said, they may be one of two types. Thin, flat brown spots that you can't feel with your eyes closed are likely to be lentigoes, or lentigines. These used to be known as "liver spots" and are not dangerous.

If the age spots are raised and you can feel them (even if they are pretty flat), they may be benign growths known as seborrheic keratoses. A seborrheic keratosis should not be confused with an actinic or solar keratosis, which is pre-cancerous.

Seb kers are not dangerous. However, a changing, bleeding, or unevenly colored growth of any type should be examined by a dermatolgist for possibly biopsy, since even benign growths may occasionally contain irregular cells and may rarely turn cancerous. Even light brown patches, if irregular, may turn out to be thin melanomas. Therefore, I would recommend that a board-certified dermatologist perform a skin cancer screening or check unusual spots at least once, if not yearly, just to be on the safe side.

If your spots turn out to be truly benign, there are indeed treatments that can help lighten, fade, or remove them. Most treatments for these benign growths are NOT covered by insurance plans, and are considered cosmetic treatments. Be aware also that gently removing the spots with less risk of scarring, leads to greater chance of expected recurrence (retreatment is fine). Each lesion should be evaluated for its own best treatment options, which may include bleaching, chemical peels, freezing, burning, light scraping, or scalpel removal. Daily sunblock is helpful to minimize some redarkening.