The common explanation: Some people are naturally prone to moles, but sunspots are small brown patches caused by a lifetime of overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Both are usually harmless, and they can be safely removed with lasers.
The bigger problem: The moles and dark patches to watch out for are the ones that creep up suddenly, have a dark color, irregular border, or are larger than a pencil eraser. “If you have a mole that appears or one that has changed, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist,” says Marina Peredo, M.D., board certified dermatologist in Smithtown, New York.
More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually, and moles and spots are often the first physical signs you have the disease. (To find free skin cancer screenings in your area, visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s web site at aad.org.)