Are Freckles Symptoms Of A Disease?

Medically reviewed by Sue Kua, MD · Dermatology

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Oct 27, 2022

    Are Freckles Symptoms Of A Disease?

    A phenomenon not often seen on Filipino skin but quite frequently in those of Caucasians is freckles. Although they are hardly ever seen on most Filipinos, some, particularly those with much fairer skin, do develop freckles as well. Are freckles symptoms of diseases or sicknesses that people might not be aware of?

    What are Freckles?

    Freckles are extra patches of coloring (or pigment) under your skin which doctors call ephelides. Freckles develop through genetics and often show up during childhood. Although, you may continue to get more until your 20s. People with fair skin or red hair are most likely to have them.

    Freckles generally first show up when children are around 2-3 years old. They appear often after you’ve been in the sun and are usually on your arms, chest, face, and neck.

    Freckles can be red, dark brown, or light brown, can go away as you age, and may even fade as temperatures drop. They are usually about 1-2 millimeters or bigger and have irregular borders that aren’t very defined.

    Freckles have been shown to be harmless when they appear. Still, it is important to be aware of skin changes and be aware of what is normal for your skin. Because skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it would be best to know the signs and symptoms of this disease if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

    Are freckles symptoms of cancer? A disease like basal cell carcinoma, which is a cancer that affects areas of the skin exposed to the sun, is one of the ones to be wary of. The risk of basal cell carcinoma is higher among people who freckle or burn easily or who have very light skin, red or blond hair, or light-colored eyes.

    How are Freckles Different From Other Skin Marks?

    Unlike other skin patches like moles, freckles appear flat instead of raised from the skin. In some cases, freckles get darker when exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. That is why freckles are more noticeable during the summer and why they fade during colder periods.

    Another marking on the skin that freckles are often mistaken for are solar lentigines. Also known as age spots, solar lentigines are caused by prolonged sun exposure over the course of several years. In contrast, freckles or ephelides are largely caused by simple genetics.

    Solar lentigines are more prevalent than ephelides and increase in prevalence and number as people age. They are most prevalent on the trunk and occur more frequently in males than in females. On the other hand, ephelides or freckles face away with age. They also become equally distributed on the face, arms, and trunk while occurring more frequently in females.

    Are Freckles Symptoms of Diseases?

    Are freckles symptoms of sunburn? The natural environment and genetics are the root cause of most freckles. In a study of 523 middle-aged French women, two elements predicted the presence of freckles: frequent sunburns and a gene known as MC1R. This gene provides instructions for making melanin. This gene, however, doesn’t affect all individuals the same way.

    There are two types of melanin: pheomelanin and eumelanin. People whose skin produces pheomelanin aren’t protected from UV radiation. They tend to have red or blonde hair, light skin, freckles, and skin that tans poorly.

    On the other hand, people with more eumelanin tend to be protected from skin damage by UV and have brown or black hair, darker skin, and skin that tans easily.

    A 1988 study revealed that sun sensitivity skin types I and II were significantly more common among people with light hair color, freckles, or both. The association of skin types I and II, red or blond hair, and freckles with decreased minimal erythema dose may reflect something in the skin. That’s genetically controlled predominance of pheomelanin (a photosensitizing molecule) in the skin of subjects with these phenotypes.

    NOTE: The skin types are according to the 6 skin types categorized in Fitzpatrick classification.

    Key Takeaways

    Are freckles symptoms of cancer or other serious diseases? The presence of freckles more often happens in people with lighter skin tones. Freckles as symptoms of diseases aren’t exactly viable. The presence of freckles has yet to be connected with any disease. However, awareness of their difference from other skin markers is helpful. Knowledge on the origin of freckles and changes that might develop in them can lead to early awareness and prevention of certain diseases like types of skin cancer from developing.

    Click here for more information on Skin diseases.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Sue Kua, MD


    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Oct 27, 2022


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