Seborrheic Keratosis

What is Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is a common, noncancerous (benign) skin growth. This condition causes waxy, rough, tan, brown, or black spots to appear on the skin. These skin growths can be flat or raised.

7 Interesting Facts of Seborrheic Keratosis

  1. Common; most people have at least one during their lifetime
  2. May occur at any age but is more common with ageing
  3. Multiple lesions are common, occurring on face, trunk, extremities, and genitals; lesions do not occur on lips, palms, or soles
  4. Lesions are sharply circumscribed and from 0.2 cm to more than 3 cm in diameter, with a “stuck-on” appearance 
  5. Surface may be either (1) smooth with small, embedded “pearls” or (2) rough and cracked
  6. Variable tan-brown-black color
  7. If border is irregular, lesion may resemble melanoma and require biopsy to differentiate

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in:

  • People who have a family history of seborrheic keratosis.
  • People who are 50 or older.
  • People who are pregnant.
  • People who have had estrogen replacement therapy.

What are the symptoms of Seborrheic Keratosis?

This condition often occurs on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas. These growths:

  • Are usually painless, but may become irritated and itchy.
  • Can be yellow, brown, black, or other colors.
  • Are slightly raised or have a flat surface.
  • Are sometimes rough or wart-like in texture.
  • Are often waxy on the surface.
  • Are round or oval-shaped.
  • Sometimes look like they are “stuck on.”
  • Often occur in groups, but may occur as a single growth.

How is Seborrheic Keratosis diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. A sample of the growth may be tested (skin biopsy). You may need to see a skin specialist (dermatologist).

How is this treated?

Treatment is not usually needed for this condition, unless the growths are irritated or are often bleeding. You may also choose to have the growths removed if you do not like their appearance. Most commonly, these growths are treated with a procedure in which liquid nitrogen is applied to “freeze” off the growth (cryosurgery). They may also be burned off with electricity or cut off.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Watch your growth for any changes.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
  • Do not scratch or pick at the growth or growths. This can cause them to become irritated or infected.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You suddenly have many new growths.
  • Your growth bleeds, itches, or hurts.
  • Your growth suddenly becomes larger or changes color.
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