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Skin Changes Caused by Sun Exposure (Photoaging)

Skin changes (photoaging) can occur from too much sun over many years. Some of these changes include wrinkles, dryness, freckles, "liver spots," easy bruising, skin growths, skin patches (actinic keratoses), and changes in skin color. Photoaging is seen more in people who burn easily.

Normal skin aging causes fine, shallow wrinkles. Photoaged skin creates wrinkles that are deep and thick. Photoaging can be stopped by using sun protection measures. Even after skin changes have started, the skin can repair itself if you limit further sun exposure and avoid getting sunburned.

A monthly self-examination of skin moles, blemishes, or birthmarks is important to notice any skin changes that may lead to skin cancer. Check for the ABCDEs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry. One half doesn't match the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • Color. The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance. Changes in color distribution—especially the spread of color from the edge of a mole into the surrounding skin—also are an early sign of melanoma.
  • Diameter. The mole or skin growth is larger than 6 mm (0.2 in.), or about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
  • Evolution. There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised September 1, 2011

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