Both sun spots and skin cancer can be caused by prolonged sun exposure, and both may appear as flat brown patches on the face, hands, chest and other areas of sun-exposed skin. Skin cancer can grow and sometimes spread to other parts of the body causing serious illness or death, while sun spots are harmless and primarily a cosmetic concern. Both can be treated effectively in most cases.
Sun spots (more accurately called lentigines) and skin cancers are usually the result of long term sun exposure and both can have a similar appearance (pigmented flat patches) - although skin cancers may also have may other possible appearances.
- Skin cancer is a potentially serious medical condition that can threaten the health of the individual due to continued growth invading local tissues and organs, or spread to distant parts of the body in some cases. Some skin cancers cause serious illness or death. Skin cancer always requires treatment, which may be surgical removal, topical prescription medication, photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy or radiotherapy.
- Sun spots, on the other hand, are considered a cosmetic concern only. They are most effectively treated with light, such as laser, IPL or BBL treatment.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and laser treatments are effective in fading pigmentation on the face over a few weeks. They are commonly used to treat sun spots and other pigmentation issues. The difference between IPL and laser is that laser can penetrate more deeply than IPL and is sometimes used as the main treatment for skin cancers. IPL uses a wider range of light wavelengths, but does not penetrate as deeply. This means it can be useful for treating a range of cosmetic concerns (e.g. pigmentation and capillaries) at the same time.