Human skin is prone to developing growths that are different than the majority of the skin surface. These include moles, warts, skin cancers, skin tags, freckles, and other skin growths. When a person finds a new growth he or she may assume the worst — skin cancer — but most lesions are benign and quite common. We address warts, moles, and skin cancer and how to identify them.
What is a skin growth?
Our skin is the human body’s largest organ, and it is the first line of defense against all kinds of invading forces, from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun to viruses and bacteria. A skin growth is anything that isn’t “normal” skin. Skin growths include warts, moles, skin tags, freckles, seborrheic keratoses, lentigines, and skin cancer.
What causes skin growths?
Some causes of skin growths are understood. Moles, for instance, grow when melanocytes (the cells that give our skin its color) grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. Warts are caused by a virus. Skin tags can increase with weight gain and can be hereditary. Lentigines and freckles form due to sun exposure.
What are common skin growths
As mentioned above, moles, warts, and skin cancer have their own pages on our website. These are some other common skin growths.
Skin tags – A skin tag is a small flap of tissue that hangs off the skin by a connecting stalk. Skin tags are benign and usually don’t cause any pain. But they can become irritated by clothing or jewelry rubbing on them. Skin tags can show up after weight gain. They are commonly found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, under the breasts, and in the groin area.
Lentigines – A lentigo is a spot on the skin that is darker than the surrounding skin. They are more common in people with fair skin. They appear on areas that receive the most sun — the face, hands, and arms. People may have a genetic predisposition toward developing them.
Freckles – Freckles are small brown spots that are extremely common. They show themselves more in the summer on the face, neck, chest, back, arms, and hands. They are more common in people with lighter skin tones and people with light-colored or red hair. Freckles are caused by genetics and sun exposure. They are harmless.
Seborrheic keratoses – Seborrheic keratoses are flesh colored or daker growths that can be found anywhere on the body. Why they develop is not understood, but they originate in keratinocyte cells. As they develop, they begin to look more like warts. They do not normally develop into skin cancer, and tend to start forming in the late 20’s or early 30’s.
How do you know if a skin growth is cancerous or not?
Although all of these skin growths covered on this page are benign (noncancerous), they can sometimes be confused with growths that can turn into cancer, such as actinic keratoses. It never hurts to know what to look for when checking skin growths for cancer. Generally, change is the first sign. For instance, a mole that changes color, height, size, or shape should be checked by Dr. Booth. If a growth starts to bleed, ooze, or itch, it should be checked. Also, size is important. If a growth is larger than the eraser of a pencil, it merits checking.
How are skin growths treated or removed?
The skin growths on this page are generally simply cosmetic nuisances. They don’t require any treatment. If you choose to have Dr. Booth remove them, this is easily done.
- Skin tags — These are cut off with a scalpel or scissors, frozen with cryosurgery, or burned off with electrosurgery.
- Lentigines — These are removed with cryosurgery, laser surgery, or they can be treated topically with retinoids or bleaching agents to lighten them.
- Freckles — Freckles are so prevalent that they are rarely treated. However, they can be lessened in appearance with chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing.
- Seborrheic keratoses — These can be frozen, or burned with electrosurgery.