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Skin Growths

Skin growths are common and can range from benign lesions, such as seborrheic keratosis, cysts, warts, lipomas, and benign moles, to malignant lesions, such as actinic keratoses, nonmelanoma skin cancers, and malignant melanomas. Noncancerous or benign skin growths are often confused with their malignant counterparts. They may be flat or raised, dark or skin-colored, and grow slowly or rapidly. Benign skin growths are caused by viruses, genetics, and environmental factors. Below are descriptions of the most common benign skin growths.

Seborrheic keratoses are the most common benign skin growths that affect people older than 50 years old (1). They are often found in groups but can occur as a single growth. Most people will develop at least one during their lives. SK tends to run in families (2). SKs are flat or slightly raised scaly, pigmented growths that look “stuck on” the face, chest, shoulders, and back; however, they occur anywhere on the body. SKs may itch and become irritated. Picking at them can cause bleeding and infection. If they are not irritated or infected, treatment is not necessary, but cryotherapy (freezing the lesion) and other modalities may be used to address cosmetic concerns.

Sebaceous hyperplasia produces small, shiny, flesh-colored to yellow benign bumps. They are caused by trapped sebum and dead skin cells inside enlarged oil glands, typically on the face, forehead, and nose. They are common in people with fair skin and are linked with high testosterone, sun exposure, and genetics. Treatment is primarily for cosmetic purposes.

Lentigines are hyperpigmented (darkened) patches that may look like a mole. They are usually tan to brown and affect light-skinned adults as they age. They are caused by long-term sun exposure and, therefore, appear on sun-exposed skin. Lentigines are generally benign. Treatment is primarily for cosmetic reasons.

Moles are common benign growths that can appear during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Moles are usually round, flat, or slightly raised brown lesions but can be tan, red, black, pink, blue, or colorless. Some moles have hair while others do not and moles can fade over time. Moles can develop anywhere on the body, even under the fingernails, between the fingers and toes, and on the scalp. Changes in a mole can be cause for concern and may be a sign of melanoma. When changes occur, a dermatologist should evaluate the concerning mole. Atypical or dysplastic moles are larger than a pencil eraser, have an odd shape, and show more than one color. They require evaluation by a dermatologist, and a biopsy may be needed.

Skin cysts are lumps under the skin filled with fluid or other skin debris. They appear as yellow or white with a small dark spot in the middle. Cysts can be treated with drainage, injections, or simple excisions.

Cherry angiomas are benign overgrowths of capillaries (small blood vessels) and are very common. They typically affect people over the age of 30 and multiply as you age (3). They are most often red and flat but can be slightly raised. They are mostly found on the trunk and extremities and can also be found on the face, chest, and neck. They are harmless and cause no symptoms but can bleed if picked. Electrotherapy or laser therapy may be recommended for cosmetic improvement.

Skin tags are flesh-colored to soft brown growths that appear on a stalk. They are commonly found on the neck, under the arms, and in the groin, where skin is constantly under friction. They are harmless but can become irritated by clothing and jewelry. They can be removed with simple excision or electrosurgery.

Milia are small white and yellow cystic growths on the face caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells. They are dome-shaped bumps that often occur in newborns and on women’s faces. Milia do not normally cause symptoms and are harmless lesions. They can be treated for cosmetic purposes by electrosurgery or simple excision.

Warts are benign skin growths caused by a virus that resides in the top layer of the skin. They appear as scaly white or skin-colored rough bumps. There may be one or a cluster of warts together. They can be spread by contact with other warts; therefore, it is advised not to scratch or manipulate them. Warts can be treated with topical agents, cryotherapy, surgical excision, and lasers.

Schedule a dermatology consultation.

If you’re concerned about a skin growth, schedule an appointment at Bliss Dermatology today. Benign skin growths are often removed for cosmetic purposes and are simple in-office procedures. Bliss Dermatology provides board-certified dermatology at our two offices in Venice and Englewood, Florida. You’re in expert hands.

At a Glance

Michelle Pennie, MD

  • Board-Certified Dermatologist
  • Fellowship-Trained Mohs Surgeon
  • Founder and Lead Dermatologist of Bliss Dermatology
  • Learn more

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