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Brown spots on the skin generally do not indicate a cause for alarm. These naturally occurring features can appear as small brown blotches from exposure to ultraviolet light. Seborrheic keratoses also presents as brown spots on the skin. While they can appear alarming, these are also benign. Brown skin spots can indicate a more severe problem, however. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, often appears as brownish spots, and accounts for 77 percent of all deaths from skin cancer, according to SkinCancerNet 1.
CNN Health reports that ultraviolet light increases the production of melanin, a dark pigment in the skin. Brown spots on the skin, also referred to as liver spots, may occur when extra melanin clumps together 4. Exposure to sun and tanning beds, both of which emit ultraviolet light, can hasten the development of these liver spots; however, it often takes years for the pigment to become pronounced enough to notice 4. These harmless spots do not require treatment, but sufferers can use skin-bleaching products to lighten the spots.
What Causes Liver Spots on My Arms?
Seborrhoeic keratoses, also called basal cell papillomas, senile warts or brown warts, appear as brown spots on the skin as people age, according to DermNet NZ 2. While usually not dangerous, these skin lesions sometimes resemble skin cancers. Suborrhoeic keratoses occurs as a byproduct of aging, and can appear following a sunburn or dermatitis. These lesions are easily removed using liquid nitrogen, curettage and cautery, laser surgery or shave biopsy.
- Seborrhoeic keratoses, also called basal cell papillomas, senile warts or brown warts, appear as brown spots on the skin as people age, according to DermNet NZ 2.
- Suborrhoeic keratoses occurs as a byproduct of aging, and can appear following a sunburn or dermatitis.
Melanoma may appear as a changing mole with irregular borders in varying shades of brown, among other colors. SkinCancerNet says that this form of cancer has the highest likelihood of spreading to lymph nodes and internal organs 1. With early detection and treatment, however, 95 percent of melanoma cases are curable. Most forms of melanoma progress rapidly. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma treatment may include removal surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy 3.
Brown Spot Symptoms
Causes of Dark Spots on Your Legs
Age spots can develop in people with dark or light complexions. Medline Health suggests that these liver spots are very common in people over 40 4.
What Causes Liver Spots on My Arms?
Causes of Dark Spots on Your Legs
How Can I Make a Homemade Bleaching Cream for Age Spots?
Causes of Spots on the Liver
How to Get Rid of Brown Hormonal Spots
How to Use Selsun Blue for Sunspots
Actinic Keratosis Vs. Seborrheic Keratosis
Melanoma Vs. Age Spots
Possible Reasons for a Dark Skin Discoloration on the Face
Rashlike Pigmentation on the Foot
- SkinCancerNet: Four Types of Melanoma
- DermNet NZ: Seborrhoeic keratoses
- American Cancer Society: Treatment of melanoma by stage
- Medline Plus: Liver Spots
- American Academy of Dermatology. Variety of Options Available to Treat Pigmentation Problems. February 5, 2013. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/variety-of-options-available-to-treat-pigmentation-problems
- Tomecki J, Woodhouse G. Common Benign Growths. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/dermatology/common-benign-growths/
- Scarcella G, Dethlefsen MW, Nielsen MCE. Treatment of solar lentigines using a combination of picosecond laser and biophotonic treatment. Clin Case Rep. 2018;6(9):1868-1870. doi:10.1002/ccr3.1749
- Scherer D, Kumar R. Genetics of pigmentation in skin cancer--a review. Mutat Res. 2010;705(2):141-53. doi:10.1016/j.mrrev.2010.06.002
- Bastiaens M, Hoefnagel J, Westendorp R, Vermeer BJ, Bouwes bavinck JN. Solar lentigines are strongly related to sun exposure in contrast to ephelides. Pigment Cell Res. 2004;17(3):225-9. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0749.2004.00131.x
- Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(7):20-31.
- George AO, Shittu OB, Enwerem E, Wachtel M, Kuti O. The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels. J Natl Med Assoc. 2005;97(5):685-8.
- Al-saif FM, Baqays AA, Alsaif HF, Alhumidi AA. Erythromelanosis follicularis faciei et colli with reticulated hyperpigmentation of the extremities. Clin Case Rep. 2017;5(10):1576-1579. doi:10.1002/ccr3.1095
- Dereure O. Drug-induced skin pigmentation. Epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(4):253-62. doi:10.2165/00128071-200102040-00006
- Ammoury A, Michaud S, Paul C, et al. Photodistribution of blue-gray hyperpigmentation after amiodarone treatment: molecular characterization of amiodarone in the skin. Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(1):92-6. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2007.25
- Jain A, Gupta N. Multifocal Bullous Fixed Drug Erruption Due To Phenytoin: A Lesson Learned! J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(12):OD04-5. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15464.6908
- Mccarty M, Rosso JQ. Chronic administration of oral trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for acne vulgaris. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2011;4(8):58-66.
- Massinde A, Ntubika S, Magoma M. Extensive hyperpigmentation during pregnancy: a case report. J Med Case Rep. 2011;5:464. doi:10.1186/1752-1947-5-464
- Sarkar SB, Sarkar S, Ghosh S, Bandyopadhyay S. Addison's disease. Contemp Clin Dent. 2012;3(4):484-6. doi:10.4103/0976-237X.107450
- Lause M, Kamboj A, Fernandez faith E. Dermatologic manifestations of endocrine disorders. Transl Pediatr. 2017;6(4):300-312. doi:10.21037/tp.2017.09.08
- Enguita FJ, Leitão AL. Hydroquinone: environmental pollution, toxicity, and microbial answers. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:542168. doi:10.1155/2013/542168
- Arora P, Sarkar R, Garg VK, Arya L. Lasers for treatment of melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2012;5(2):93-103. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.99436
- Prohaska J, Badri T. Cryotherapy. StatPearls Publishing. 2019.
- Schalka S. New data on hyperpigmentation disorders. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2017;31 Suppl 5:18-21. doi:10.1111/jdv.14411
- American Academy of Dermatology. Variety of Options Available to Treat Pigmentation Problems. February 5, 2013.
- Tomecki J, Woodhouse G. Common Benign Growths. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education.
Nicki Wolf has been writing health and human interest articles since 1986. Her work has been published at various cooking and nutrition websites. Wolf has an extensive background in medical/nutrition writing and online content development in the nonprofit arena. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University.