Harvard Women's Health Watch

5 skin spots you shouldn't worry about

Check your skin using your fingertips as well as your eyes. Scaly patches may be precancerous.
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Some spots caused by aging and sun exposure are benign, while others need medical attention. Learn the difference.

September is an ideal time to take stock of your skin. If you've spent any time in the sun over the summer, you may have noticed that you have a few more spots—brown or tan or white—on the exposed parts of your body. Even if you always use sun protection now, you can still develop skin changes caused by sun exposure decades ago. If you're worried that any skin change is a sign of a developing cancer, you can relax. "Many of these are totally benign," says Dr. Suzanne Olbricht, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. However, distinguishing benign spots from those that warrant medical attention can be somewhat tricky. Though the following are caused by sun exposure, they won't progress to cancer.

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