Seborrheic keratosis is growths that often appear in different colors on certain skin areas. These growths are often not cancerous. You can find more information below.
What is seborrheic keratosis?
Seborrheic keratosis is a growth on the skin that is not cancerous (benign). Its color can vary from white to brown or black raised areas. Seborrheic keratoses usually appear on a person’s chest, arms, back, or other areas. They are very common in people older than 50, but young adults can get them too. With age, more and more people get one or more of these growths.
The outer layer of your skin is the epidermis. Cells called keratinocytes make up most of this layer. These cells regularly separate as young cells take their place. Sometimes keratinocytes grow in larger numbers than normal. This can lead to a keratosis. There may be only one or hundreds of these growths. In most cases, these growths only cause aesthetic problems. In some cases, they can cause skin irritation if they are in an area where clothing rubs.
Seborrheic keratoses are not cancer. But sometimes they can look like growths that are cancerous. Therefore, your doctor may need to take a sample and examine it.
Causes of seborrheic keratosis
It is not clear what exactly causes seborrheic keratosis. It tends to run in families genetically, so genes can be a cause. Normal skin aging also plays a role, as growths are more common with increasing age. Too much sun exposure can also play a role. They are not contagious. You cannot take them from someone else or spread them to others.
Sometimes more than one seborrheic keratosis can appear suddenly. This is unusual. It can also be a symptom of a cancer that is not related to the skin, such as colon cancer or lung cancer. If many of these growths appear suddenly, you should let your doctor know. Your doctor may want to make sure you don’t have any type of cancer.
Symptoms of seborrheic keratosis
Seborrheic keratosis growths can develop as:
- slightly above the surrounding skin
- They may have a dark or white or light tan appearance, such as brown or black.
- May have a waxy, sticky appearance
- May look scaly or warty
- Appears quite different from the surrounding skin
- It usually does not cause pain, but can sometimes itch a little
They are most common on the chest, abdomen, back, neck, arms, face, or other sun-exposed areas. You may have only one or hundreds of these growths. People tend to develop more of these growths as they age.
When should you see a doctor?
It is useful to see a doctor in the following cases:
- a new skin growth
- Growth that is not the same on both sides
- A growing mole (or something that looks like me)
- The new itching of an old mole
- A mole with a blurred edge
- Constantly changing skin areas
Diagnosis of seborrheic keratosis
A doctor can often diagnose seborrheic keratoses based on how they look. In some cases, a biopsy may be required.
It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you have a skin growth that concerns you. Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and symptoms. Your doctor will give you a physical exam and closely examine the growth.
It is very important to see a doctor to make sure any growths are not cancer or precancerous. Your doctor may need to check for cancer for certain signs that may be related if:
- If there are rough and raised areas on the skin
- If the boundaries are blurred
- If it is not the same shape on both sides (asymmetry)
- If there are enlarged blood vessels around the growth
- If there is an open wound in the growth
- If a previous mole has grown
If your doctor wants to check for cancer, he or she will do a skin biopsy. In this case, the doctor will take a sample of the growth and the area involved. Then it will be checked under the microscope for cancer.
Seborrheic keratosis treatment
Seborrheic keratoses usually only cause aesthetic problems. But many people worry about the possibility of cancer. People may also want it removed because they don’t like the way related fields appear.
In most cases, they do not need any treatment. However, if they’re irritated by clothing, feel itchy, worried about cancer, or don’t like how they look, they may choose to remove one or more of them. These can be removed with:
- Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy): This freezes the growth and causes it to fall off.
- Surgery: This can be done in 2 ways: 1- With a scalpel and drugs to prevent pain 2- With electricity to burn the growth and a numbing medicine to prevent pain
Most growths that are removed do not come back again. If they grow back after treatment, a tissue sample (biopsy) is needed to make sure the diagnosis is correct and that the growth is not cancer.
Do not try to remove seborrheic keratosis yourself. This can cause problems in some cases and cause something more important or dangerous. Removing the lesion at home can also cause infection.
Key points about seborrheic keratosis
- Seborrheic keratosis is a skin condition that causes growths on your skin. Growth is not cancer. Usually these growths cause only aesthetic problems. It is very common in older people.
- These growths are dark in color and grow with a waxy, warty appearance.
- Your doctor can often diagnose seborrheic keratosis with a physical exam.
- If your doctor thinks the growth may be cancer, you may need a skin biopsy.
- Most seborrheic keratosis do not need treatment. You can ask for them to be removed if they cause problems, or you can have them removed if you don’t like the look.
Here are tips to help you get the most out of your visit to your doctor for seborrheic keratosis:
- Find out the cause of your condition and what it is.
- Write down the questions you want answered before your visit.
- Take someone with you to help you remember what your doctor told you.
- Write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medications, treatments, or tests at the visit. Also note any new instructions your doctor gives you.
- Know why a new medication or treatment has been prescribed and how it can help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure was recommended and what the results might mean.
- Know what to expect if you don’t take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, note the date, time, and purpose of that visit.
- Ask your doctor all the questions you have in mind.