Melanoma Awareness, Skin Cancer, Preventative Tips

What you need to know about freckles, sunspots, and moles

Discover the difference and how they relate to skin cancer and melanoma

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 28/08/19
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The “freckle face” look is fresh once again, thanks to the Duchess of Sussex who started this beauty trend. Dubbed the “Meghan Markle Effect”, this has inspired women to embrace their natural beauty and show their sun-kissed freckles. 

Whilst moles are easier to distinguish, most people can’t tell the difference between freckles and sunspots. With freckles being a trend, it is easy for people to ignore these hyperpigmented areas. The issue here is that skin cancer in its early stages may look just like these spots.

It is known that two out of three adults develop skin cancer before they turn 70. In addition, skin cancer leads to more than 2,000 deaths a year, making it one of the most fatal forms of cancer for men and women. 

What’s the Difference Between Freckles, Sunspots, and Moles?

Freckles, sunspots, and moles are classified as harmless, random marks for the most part. Here is how these marks are made. The role of melanin is to protect against sun exposure by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

Melanocytes are mature, melanin-forming skin cells located anywhere on your body. When activated by sun exposure, melanocytes transform your skin into its tanned hue. 

Recommended article: Sunspot or Skin Cancer: How to Tell the Difference


Freckles and sunspots are the results of melanocytes that get darker. Moles are caused by melanocytes that grow in clumps. Also known as nevi, moles appear to be a skin growth.

While freckles and sunspots are flat, moles can be flat or raised on the skin. 


Freckles are genetic, while sun exposure leads to both freckles and sunspots. Individuals with freckles and moles can develop these from childhood. 

Moles are caused by skin cells that grow together. Sunspots are caused by a combination of aging and sun exposure. These marks are most likely to appear after age 40, which is why sunspots are also known as liver spots or age spots.

Size and Colour

In terms of size, freckles are smaller than 2 millimetres (mm), and sunspots are more than 2 mm. Moles tend to be less than 6 mm. 

Freckles can be red or brown, while sunspots can be brown or black. Moles vary from shades of brown to black.


As for moles, you can find these individually or in groups anywhere on your body. Freckles and sunspots are most commonly located where your body gets the most sun exposure. 

Can Freckles and Sunspots Become Cancerous?

Freckles and sunspots are harmless marks on the skin that do not become cancerous simply because they exist. If you have freckles and sunspots, however, your skin type may be more prone to developing skin cancer. 

Freckles are more common among people with lighter-hued hair or skin. This type of skin colour is more apt to develop skin cancer due to a lack of melanin to protect against sun exposure and subsequent ultraviolet radiation.

You must also have sun exposure to develop freckles and sunspots, which increases your risk to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. As a result, individuals who have these marks have “an increased risk of skin cancer.” 

When Beauty Marks Turn Ugly

A freckle that is larger than 2 mm stands a chance at being more than just a freckle or sunspot. 

At the same time, when you have a mole that has changed its shape, colour, or size recently, this may be more than just a beauty mark. Moles can also bleed or become itchy, which is not going to happen with a freckle or sunspot. These may be signs of transformations associated with skin cancer.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Certain individuals are more likely to develop melanoma as a result of their genes. This includes people with more than 11 moles, which increases the risk by 1.6 times. If you have 100 moles, your risk increases 100 times. 

Other risk factors to take into consideration include having blue eyes, red hair, or fair skin. Having spent a lot of time tanning or having sun exposure, as well as having a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, are also risk factors.

If you are at risk for having skin cancer, it is advisable to visit your GP or a skin cancer detection clinic for a skin check on an annual basis. 

Visit a Melanoma Detection Clinic at MoleMap

If you have an elevated risk of getting skin cancer and notice a change in the pigmented spots on your skin, seek medical advice. Your doctor can provide you with an exam and referrals for skin cancer testing. You can also visit a melanoma detection and surveillance clinic.

Here at MoleMap, we provide melanoma detection, diagnosis, and surveillance services. Book your appointment with MoleMap today. 

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