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Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin

Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin Causes of Brown Spots on the Skin

Brown spots on the skin generally do not indicate a cause for alarm. These naturally occurring features can appear as small brown blotches from exposure to ultraviolet light. Seborrheic keratoses also presents as brown spots on the skin. While they can appear alarming, these are also benign. Brown skin spots can indicate a more severe problem, however. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, often appears as brownish spots, and accounts for 77 percent of all deaths from skin cancer, according to SkinCancerNet.

Ultraviolet Light reports that ultraviolet light increases the production of melanin, a dark pigment in the skin. Brown spots on the skin, also referred to as liver spots, may occur when extra melanin clumps together. Exposure to sun and tanning beds, both of which emit ultraviolet light, can hasten the development of these liver spots; however, it often takes years for the pigment to become pronounced enough to notice. These harmless spots do not require treatment, but sufferers can use skin-bleaching products to lighten the spots.

Seborrheic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses, also called basal cell papillomas, senile warts or brown warts, appear as brown spots on the skin as people age, according to DermNet NZ. While usually not dangerous, these skin lesions sometimes resemble skin cancers. Suborrhoeic keratoses occurs as a byproduct of aging, and can appear following a sunburn or dermatitis. These lesions are easily removed using liquid nitrogen, curettage and cautery, laser surgery or shave biopsy.


Melanoma may appear as a changing mole with irregular borders in varying shades of brown, among other colors. SkinCancerNet says that this form of cancer has the highest likelihood of spreading to lymph nodes and internal organs. With early detection and treatment, however, 95 percent of melanoma cases are curable. Most forms of melanoma progress rapidly. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma treatment may include removal surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

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