Seborrheic Keratosis Skin Growths: What They Are and Why You Shouldn’t Worry
You see a small, brownish growth on your skin and wonder for a moment what it is. Dismissing it as an inevitable sign of aging or a fact of life, you go on about your day. You continue to pay attention to it for several weeks, however, and can’t help but notice that it is growing. The moment you realize that it has a bumpy texture and has grown to the size of a quarter, you start to worry that it could be skin cancer.
In some cases, such a growth on your skin is actually a seborrheic keratosis. It’s harmless, but it can certainly be scary, as it has many worrisome features: growing, changing, and often asymmetric. Although you should have it checked out by a dermatologist anyway, seborrheic keratosis are non-cancerous and not contagious.
Identifying Seborrheic Keratosis Skin Growths
Seborrheic keratoses are typically tan or brown, but can vary in color. They are thick and can have a warty or waxy texture, often referred to as the “skin barnacles,” referencing their appearance to barnacles stuck on a boat. Their size can be a fraction of an inch to larger than a half-dollar. While they are not painful, they can be itchy.
The growths can appear nearly anywhere on the skin, especially on the trunk. They do not grow on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
They also do not “spread” on your own body, although multiple growths may form independently. Most people develop them in middle age or later, and the number tends to increase with age.
The cause of seborrheic keratoses is unknown, but heredity may be a factor. There also is some correlation between sun exposure and the presence of these growths, even though they can appear on skin that is typically covered.
Bottom line: Seborrheic keratoses are simply harmless growths that some people may find unsightly. With that said, they are worth getting checked out by your dermatologist at Associated Dermatologists for assurances the growing spots are seborrheic keratoses.
Even if you believe the growth is harmless, you should still make an appointment with a dermatologist just to be safe. If it looks cancerous, the dermatologist will remove it and have it analyzed.
As benign growth, often nothing is necessary for treatment. However, treatment options do exist. Two of the most common methods of removing seborrheic keratoses are:
- Cryotherapy, which is the application of a very cold liquid nitrogen that destroys the growth. The seborrheic keratosis will then fall off within days, or it will blister and dry out like a scab.
- Electrosurgery, where the growth is numbed with an anesthetic and an electric current is used to destroy the growth. A scoop-shaped instrument known as a curette may be used afterward to scrape off the treated growth. In some cases, only electrosurgery is needed, and in others the use of a curette is sufficient on its own.
To have your skin checked and reassurance that the growth are merely seborrheic keratoses, make an appointment with one of our dermatologists for your full body skin exam by calling (248) 975-SKIN or messaging us online.