Published on Aug 29, 2019 and last reviewed on Dec 06, 2019 - 4 min read
Seborrheic keratosis is the most common benign skin growth in older adults, which is commonly mistaken for melanoma. Read the article to know more.
Seborrheic keratosis, otherwise called basal cell papilloma or seborrheic warts, is the most commonly seen noncancerous skin growth in adults. They are displeasing to the eye, but do not pose any harm. The only thing is, it is difficult to differentiate between this and melanoma, which is a severe type of skin cancer. So, if you notice any new growth on your skin, or if your mole changes color, shape, or texture, always consult a doctor.
It is usually pale, black, or brown growth, commonly seen on the back, shoulders, chest, or face.
It usually affects middle-aged people and might cause single or multiple skin growths. You cannot get infected from a person with seborrheic keratosis, as it is not contagious.
As of now, the exact cause is not known. They seem to affect people as they age and are not contagious. It is seen to run in families, so genetics appears to play a role.
Looks like a wart.
Has a waxy surface.
Can appear on the face, chest, shoulders, groin, scalp, breast, or back.
May result in a single or cluster of lesions.
It can be light brown to black in color.
Is round or oval in shape.
Is flat or elevated.
Has a scaly surface.
Can be small or measure up to 1 inch.
Might be itchy.
They are not painful but can be aesthetically disturbing. Do not rub or pick them, as they can bleed, swell, or result in infection.
The following are the types of seborrheic keratoses:
Common seborrheic keratosis.
Reticulated seborrheic keratosis or adenoid seborrheic keratosis.
Clonal seborrheic keratosis.
Irritated seborrheic keratosis.
Seborrheic keratosis with squamous atypia.
Dermatosis papulosa nigra.
Inverted follicular keratosis.
Harmless skin growth
Commonly seen in older adults
Can affect people of any age
Stays the same size
They grow and spread rapidly
Light tan or brown in color
Have a variety of colors
Waxy or scaly surface
Do not bleed or ooze
Bleed or ooze
Can develop anywhere in the body
Starts as a mole or wart
image source: researchgate.net
The factors that increase the risk of seborrheic keratosis are:
Frequent exposure to sunlight.
Skin folds and skin friction commonly seen in individuals who are overweight.
Your dermatologist will be able to diagnose this condition by looking at the lesion. If needed, the dermatologist will take a sample from the growth or the entire lesion (biopsy) and send it to the lab. The tissues collected during the biopsy are then viewed under a microscope to detect cancer cells.
Generally, treatment is not necessary. But if the lesion is hard to distinguish from cancer, or if it is itching or causing discomfort or is a problem esthetically, then the lesion is removed. Some of the treatment options include:
Cryosurgery - With a spray gun or cotton swab, liquid nitrogen is applied to the lesion, which freezes it. The lesion dries and falls off in a few days.
Electrocautery - Otherwise called electrosurgery, is a method where electric current is used to burn the growth.
Curettage - Here, a scoop-shaped surgical instrument (curette) is used to scrape off the growth.
Ablation - Here, a laser is used to vaporize the growth.
All these methods might leave a slight scar, and sometimes cause new lesions to appear on other body parts.
The effectiveness of home remedies is not proven and should not be tried without consulting a doctor first.
Hydrogen peroxide solution, glycolic acid solution, lemon and vinegar mixture, tea tree oil, etc., are believed to be helpful. These solutions if applied to the lesion directly with a cotton swab dries the lesion, which falls off eventually.
Always be careful while trying these home remedies, as it can result in allergic contact dermatitis.
As it looks so similar to melanoma, always get any suspicious-looking skin lesion checked by a doctor. To know more about the treatment options, consult a dermatologist online.
It is not always necessary to treat seborrheic keratosis. It can be treated if it becomes irritated and gets uncomfortable when it rubs against the cloth. Cryosurgery is the best treatment option. Here, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the lesion and then it is excised.
Keratosis can be treated with the help of:
- Cryosurgery - The lesion dries and falls off when liquid nitrogen is applied to it.
- Electrocautery - Here, an electric current is used to burn the growth.
Curettage - A curette is used to scrape off the growth.
- Ablation - Laser is used to vaporize the growth.
When a seborrheic becomes red and inflamed due to constant friction or injury, it is called inflamed seborrheic keratosis.
Seborrheic keratosis is painless and usually does not cause any symptoms. If the lesion becomes itchy or inflamed, it is best to get it removed by your dermatologist.
The growth has a slightly elevated and looks waxy or scaly. It can be black, brown, or light tan in color.
Seborrheic keratosis is a benign growth that commonly affects older adults. There is no way to prevent it.
The lesion can appear suddenly and can vary in size, shape, and color. It can appear on the back, shoulders, chest, and face.
Yes, the lesion can grow and become as large as 3 cm in diameter.
The lesion is usually painless with no symptoms, but it might become itchy and irritated sometimes.
A topical cream that contains Tazarotene 0.1 % can be applied twice daily for 16 weeks can improve seborrheic keratosis.
Query: Hello doctor, I have many mole types of bumps joining up together. They have a waxy look and sometimes there is a yellow keratin-like fluid coming out of them. It is above my lip and no it is not cold sores. It has been growing over the last year. How can I remove it as it is getting big? They are ... Read Full »
Query: Hi doctor, I have a mole on the right side of my face. It is uneven, weirdly colored, has no clear lines and bleed easily if scratched. I have a lot of moles in my scalp but none like this. Could it be melanoma? If it is not then can I just scratch it off? I wish to know your opinion. Read Full »
Query: Hello doctor, I went to my doctor yesterday for a sore on my forehead. I was concerned it would be skin cancer. He agreed that it looked strange, and suggested a Sulfa antibiotic to see if it is getting better. If not he told me to come back again. I am curious about it. Kindly give me an opinion on... Read Full »
Do you have a question on Seborrheic Keratosis or ?Ask a Doctor Online