A Lentigo (plural Lentigines) is a small, pigmented flat or slightly raised spot with a clearly defined edge that is surrounded by normal-appearing skin. Lentigo or Lentigines may evolve slowly over years, or they may appear suddenly. They may occur anywhere on the body and vary in color from tan-brown to black. Viewed under the microscope a Lentigo shows an increased number of normal melanocytes (skin cells that produce the pigment melanin that produces skin color). Melanocytes appear to replace keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis.
Although lentigines are benign (non-cancerous) by nature, they must be carefully examined to differentiate them from early pigmented skin cancers.
Lentigines have been classified into many different types depending on what they look like, where they appear on the body, causative factors, and whether they are associated to other diseases or conditions.
They are as follows:
- Lentigo Simplex – Most common form of lentigo that appears at birth or in early childhood. Not necessarily associated to sun exposure or any medical condition.
- Solar Lentigo (Brown spots and freckles) – Commonly known as age spots or liver spots. Benign sun-induced lesion that occurs in sun-exposed areas, e.g. face, arms, hands. Not associated with any medical condition.
- Ink-Spot Lentigo – Usually a single black spot among a number of solar lentigines. Occur most commonly in patients of Celtic ancestry.
- Tanning-Bed Lentigo – Usually occurring in women with a history of tanning-bed use. Lesions may appear soon after exposure or they may appear after prolonged regular use of tanning beds.
- Lentigines Profusa – Also known as generalised lentigines and is characterised by numerous lentigines without signs of associated conditions or triggering factors. They many small lesions may join together to form colored patches. Often involves the extremities, trunk, palms and genitalia.
Lentigines requre no specific treatment. A broad-spectrum sunscreen may help to prevent further appearance and darkening of solar lentgines. Several creams may lighten lentigines if applied for a number of months. These include hydroquinone or antioxidants. To view Dr. Kovak’s Skin Care website click here. If desired, lentigines can be removed permanently through the use of chemical peels or laser treatments.