Can a sunspot be a sign of skin cancer?

I like having a tan, I hate to admit it. When I get the opportunity to tan, I seize it. I almost always wear sunscreen too. Recently I didn't. I had a sunburn on my legs and arms and I actually peeled. I haven't peeled from a burn for years! Yesterday I noticed a spot about the size of a deer tick just below my shoulder on my right arm. It's light brown and either raised or somehow set apart from the rest of the skin around it. How do I know if it's a sunspot not a cancer spot? Can sunspots become cancerous?I've had a similar spot on my left breast for over 20 years and no doctor has ever seemed concerned enough to test it. Before racing to a doctor in a total panic, can you tell me what to look for in order to rule it out or in order to have good reason to race to the doctor in a panic?


F, 34, Pennsylvania

Tags:woman age 25-34 arms sun spots sunscreen legs

Hi.  You don't have to panic, but it is wise to have any new or changing "spots" get checked by your primary care doctor or your dermatologist.  Better safe than sorry!


  Before we treat sunspots, we always assess for the risk of skin cancer or a pre-cancer.  If the lesion is suspicious we will biopsy the lesion.  Even then we will often do not treat directly over some sunspots with laser or BBL or IPL treatments.  

If you are concerned about your sunspot - it still is best to see a dermatologist.  I don't think Zwivel is the format to assess your sunspots and avoid panic.

Ken Oleszek, MD
La Fontaine Aestheitcs
Denver, CO