Liver spots are flat, usually oval spots that are brown or black in color. They actually have nothing to do with the liver or liver disease; they are called liver spots because their color can resemble the yellowish-brown color of liver 1. Liver spots are sometimes called age spots because they tend to appear in people over 40 and because they generally increase in number with age. The color in the spots comes from melanin that is deposited in large amounts by skin cells called melanocytes. According to Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine, liver spots appear most often on the backs of the hands, the arms, the face and shoulders 12.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the number-one cause of liver spots is exposure to the sun 1. It can take years of sun exposure to produce the spots, and the areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure are the most common locations of the spots.
In addition to sun exposure, other forms of exposure to ultraviolet light can cause liver spots. According to the British Columbia Cancer Agency, tanning beds and lamps cause premature skin aging and contribute to the development of liver spots in people who use them regularly 1.
People with fair skin are more susceptible to skin damage from ultraviolet rays, and are therefore at a higher risk for liver spots. Using a suncreen of SPF 30 or higher to protect the skin may lessen the likelihood a fair-skinned person will develop liver spots 1.
Genetics may play a part in why one person develops liver spots while another does not. So far, no genes have been identified that increase a person's risk for the spots, but they do seem to be hereditary in some people, according to the National Library of Medicine 2.
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