What is the connection between freckles and cancer?

Light brown patches of skin known as freckles are a part of life for most humans, some more so than others. People with fairer complexions are more likely to develop these spots in areas of the skin that have the most contact with ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, indicating an increase in the production of melanin in the skin. Freckles and cancer rarely go together, especially when they are the type of freckles called lentigines which develop with severe sunburn.

the lentigines are slightly larger and darker than freckles ephelides common, which are about the size of a nail head and are light brown, pink, or red in color. They also won't shrink over the winter like the ephelides . Other generally benign growths include liver spots and seborrheic keratoses that commonly develop on the skin of the elderly. None of these are necessarily cancerous. However, when any of these suddenly change in appearance, a doctor should be consulted.

When freckles and cancer go hand in hand, it's usually related to more distinct features. Freckles by themselves are not usually a sign of cancer. Cancer on the skin will create abnormally large lesions or bumps. It could also show up as a mole that suddenly changes color, as in the case of melanoma. However, a doctor should be consulted any time a significant change in the color of freckles occurs, even those located in an area with little sun exposure.

Ultraviolet light from the sun is blamed for creating freckles and cancer, although the former is not necessarily a precursor to the latter. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is only one cause, as it does not explain all types of skin cancer that occur on areas of the skin that are not normally exposed to the sun. Other factors that lead to skin cancer include fair skin, excessive sunburn, arsenic exposure, a large number of lesions or moles, a genetic predisposition, and a compromised immune system. Although people with fair skin are more likely to have freckles, this does not mean that the freckles actually caused the cancer, just the sensitivity of the skin.

Doctors regularly recommend protecting the skin from UV rays by using a powerful sunscreen, especially when spending several hours in direct sunlight. This helps prevent the formation of freckles and skin cancer. Even with this protection, over the course of life, people with lighter skin are more likely to have melanocytes, pigment-producing cells in the epidermis, which overproduce to create freckles.

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