The main difference between a freckle and a solar lentigo is that for a freckle, only the amount of pigment being produced by melanocytes is increased, rather than the actual number of cells. The word lentigo simply describes a patch of skin that contains a higher density of cells called melanocytes which produce a dark pigment called melanin. There are many different types of lentigo, but the commonest are caused by the sun – solar lentigos.
Alternative names: Liver spot, old age spot, senile freckle, sun spots (singular: lentigo)
What causes Freckles & Solar Lentigos?
These are non-cancerous brown spots which are thought to develop in response to sun-exposure, especially in those with fairer skin. They can appear anywhere but tend to form on the face, neck, shoulders and forearms (areas usually most exposed to sun). Unlike freckles they usually appear after the age of 30.
What are the symptoms/types of Freckles & Solar Lentigos?
Solar lentigos are flat spots which vary in colour from yellow-brown to dark brown-black, depending on skin tone. They are generally much larger than freckles being >5mm in width. The number and size of solar lentigos often increases with age, and, in comparison to freckles, they do not fade much during the winter months.
Freckles and solar lentigos are harmless, but it is important to recognise certain differences between these and early malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer). If a brown spot with an irregular border or multiple colours has appeared recently, or if you have any doubts, please speak to us immediately.
Stratum Clinics offers a Skin Cancer Screening and Mole Checking service at all of our clinics. Speak to the team to find out more.
How can it be prevented?
Adopting good sun-protection habits is the best way to prevent freckles and solar lentigines from developing or worsening. Cover up, especially between peak times from 11-4pm during hot days and wear sunscreen on exposed sites. Consider wearing clothing designed to provide sun protection and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a strong SPF and apply as advised by the manufacturer.
What Freckles & Solar Lentigos treatments are available?
For patients who already have solar lentigos, there are treatments available to reduce their appearance.
The aesthetic outcome of these therapies varies from person-to-person.
Frequently asked questions
Though freckles and solar lentigines may be mistaken for malignant melanoma, they do not themselves turn into cancer, and thus are benign. However, some people find them cosmetically unappealing, especially on the face.