Spotting the Difference: How to Identify a Sunspot from Melanoma

Protect Your Skin From The Sun!

One day you look down, and you notice it – a spot on your body. Finding an unfamiliar spot on your body can be scary. How long has it been there? Is it melanoma, or is it just a sunspot? It’s important you carefully observe the spot and go see a dermatologist to determine if it’s melanoma, or just a harmless sunspot. While you’re waiting to go see a doctor, there are steps you can take for a better understanding if it’s melanoma or a sunspot.  

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

According to, the first signs of melanoma are changes in shape, color, size or feel of an existing mole. Although, melanoma often begins as a new mole. A common trick used to remember what to look for is “ABCDE.”

  • Asymmetry – Is it not symmetrical? Does one half not mirror the other half?
  • Border that is irregular – Are the edges ragged? Do the edges blur on the outline?
  • Color that is uneven – Are their different shaes of color (brown, black, tan)?
  • Diameter – Is the spot growing in size?
  • Evolving – Has the mole/spot changed at all over the past few weeks?

What Do Sunspots Look Like?

Sunspots usually tend to resemble a freckle on areas of the body that are the most exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, back and hands. If you see a sunspot, but it’s not the typical dark brown color of a freckle, don’t worry. Sunspots tend to range in color from a light brown tint, to red and black. The color of the sunspot depends on your skin tone, and how much that area is exposed to the sun.

Everyone enjoys time in the sun. It’s a part of our everyday lives! When you do head out in the sun, make sure you always wear SPF on areas that are exposed to sun, especially the face. Some cancers are more common in aging skin. The underlying cause of skin cancer in older people is often the accumulated damage of many years of excessive exposure to the sun. In some cases there may be a genetic predisposition to skin cancer-either “cancer in the family” or the inheritance of a type of skin that increases the risk for skin cancer.

All skin cancers can be successfully cured if they are discovered and treated early. Some skin cancers (malignant melanoma and the larger squamous cell carcinomas) can spread to other parts of the body, creating a potentially life-threatening condition.

None of the above is intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please consult your doctor.

If you’re interested in seeing a dermatologist at the Santa Monica Laser & Skin Care Center, call our office today to schedule an appointment or consultation!

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