Human skin is subject to various benign growths. This article provides a compilation of the common benign skin growths, their causes, features, and treatment.
With time, skin changes happen due to increasing age and exposure to environmental stressors, health problems, and trauma or injury, resulting in skin growths. Skin growths are either congenital or develop later and may vary in size and color. The two common skin growths are freckles and moles. When the skin growth is controlled and the cells do not spread to other body parts, it is called non-cancerous or benign, but when it is uncontrolled, it becomes cancerous or malignant. These malignant skin growths require medical attention. Conversely, benign skin growths often cause cosmetic problems.
The exact cause of skin growth is still unknown. However, some skin growths may occur due to:
Environmental factors (like sunlight, temperature, or pollution).
Diagnosis is made on:
Physical Examination of the Skin: Healthcare professionals often easily recognize skin growths by examining the skin.
Biopsy: Involves removing some skin growths and examining them under a microscope.
The different types of skin growths are listed below:
1. Dermoid Cyst:
A dermoid cyst is a benign tumor composed of hairs, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and sometimes cartilage, teeth, and bone fragments.
These cysts are slow-growing and are not tender unless ruptured. They usually involve the face, inside the skull, the lower back, and the ovaries.
They are removed surgically for cosmetic reasons.
It is a common benign fibrous nodule that occurs more commonly in women than men.
These growths can occur anywhere in the body, but they are most common on the legs, arms, and upper back.
A dermatofibroma presents as small round brownish to red-purple scar-like bumps due to fibroblasts' buildup.
Dermatofibromas may be surgically removed to ease pain or itching.
3. Freckles or Ephelides
Freckles are dark-colored, flat spots that generally appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin.
These growths are formed due to the overproduction of melanin, a pigment responsible for skin and hair color.
They are commonly seen in people with blonde or red hair.
No treatment is generally required for freckles.
Keloids are smooth, thick, raised, fibrous scars found where the skin is healed after an injury.
Keloid scars are common in dark-skinned people.
These growths have a poor response to most treatment approaches.
Corticosteroid injections into keloid scars may flatten the keloids. Other treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, laser treatments, or silicone patches that may flatten the keloids.
Lipomas are round, easily movable lumps found under the skin due to fat deposits.
They typically appear on the forearms, torso, and back of the neck.
They are usually harmless, but the healthcare provider may do a biopsy if the lipoma changes shape or causes symptoms.
Treatment of lipoma may include surgical removal.
6. Moles or Nevi
Moles are common small skin marks caused by a cluster of pigment-producing cells in the skin.
They may appear flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some contain hair. Color ranges from dark brown or black to skin-colored or yellowish.
They can change over time and often respond to hormonal changes.
Most moles are benign, and no specific treatment is needed. However, some benign moles may develop into skin cancer like melanoma.
7. Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi)
These are larger than normal moles (more than a half-inch). Unlike moles, these are not always round-shaped.
They can be tan to dark brown and may occur on any body part.
Treatment may include the removal of those atypical moles that change color, shape, or diameter. People with atypical moles should particularly avoid sun exposure as sunlight may speed up the changes in atypical moles. In addition, people with atypical moles should reach out to a health care professional for any sudden changes that may indicate a risk of skin cancer.
8. Pyogenic Granulomas
Pyogenic granulomas are small, red, raised, oozing, and bleeding bumps caused by excessive growth of capillaries.
They often develop after an injury to the skin and bleed easily. They are more common in children and pregnant women.
Some pyogenic granulomas resolve without treatment. However, a biopsy may be needed to rule out cancer in some severe cases. Treatment may include surgical removal.
9. Seborrheic Keratoses
Seborrheic keratoses are flesh-colored, black, brown, tan, round or oval, well-demarcated spots.
They are more common in middle-aged and older adults.
No treatment is indicated. If the spots cause irritation or a person wants them removed for cosmetic reasons, treatment may include freezing the area with liquid nitrogen or surgery.
10. Skin Tags or Acrochordon
Skin tags are pedunculated flesh-colored to soft brown bumps found in the neck, axillae, and groin areas.
They often tend to occur in obesity and pregnancy. Occasionally, they twist and strangulate their blood supply, causing pain or irritation, or may become irritated from clothing or jewelry.
Simple snip excision is the treatment of choice.
11. Lentigines (Liver Spots)
Lentigines are benign hyperpigmented patches that resemble moles.
They are typically pale tan to brown and appear in white adults and increase in number with advancing age.
They tend to appear on the sun-exposed skin of the face, neck, upper trunk, forearms, and hands.
Treatment for lentigines is primarily for cosmetic purposes. Treatment options include cryotherapy, chemical peels, laser therapy, and Hydroquinone bleaching creams.
12. Cherry Angioma
Cherry angiomas are benign vascular growths, usually small red bumps or macules that occur in adults and increase in number with age. Angiomas can develop on most body areas but appear more commonly on the trunk and proximal extremities.
They are usually asymptomatic but sometimes can bleed with trauma. Treatment is not required, but laser therapy is the best means of destruction for cosmetic purposes.
Milia are asymptomatic small white or yellow bumps that occur majorly on the faces of women and neonates.
They are collections of keratin under the epidermal surface of the skin.
Treatment is usually for cosmetic purposes and consists of an incision followed by an expression of cystic contents. Topical Tretinoin may help treat and prevent milia.
Skin growths cause more cosmetic concerns than anything else. Most of them are benign and harmless, but some benign growths indicate underlying systemic diseases. Most benign growths do not require specific treatment unless they produce any symptoms. A skin biopsy may be helpful to evaluate the growths that have changed or display characteristics of cutaneous malignancy.
Skin growth refers to a lump on the skin that develops due to systemic diseases, environmental factors, and genetic changes. The various types of skin growth are listed down:
- Moles are flat, raised, or round clusters of pigment-producing cells in the skin.
- Freckles are dark-colored spots on the skin.
- A dermoid cyst is a benign sac-like growth in the skin.
- Dermatofibroma is round, brownish nodules on the skin.
- Keloids refer to the thick and fibrous scars on the skin.
- Lipoma is a freely movable lump that occurs due to fat deposition under the skin.
- Skin tags refer to skin-colored or brown-colored skin growth that primarily develops on the neck, groin area, and axilla.
- Lentigines are hyperpigmented patches similar to moles.
- Milia are white or yellow bumps that are asymptomatic.
Keratosis is benign skin growth. It most commonly occurs on the arms, back, chest, and other areas. They may appear round, oval, white, brown, or tan. These lesions more commonly affect middle or old-aged individuals. The skin’s outer layer, called the epidermis, is mainly made up of keratinocyte cells. Certain factors may cause increased growth of these keratinocytes leading to keratosis. These appear wart-like and are benign (non-cancerous) in nature. Therefore, keratosis is not of significant concern but requires treatment for cosmetic reasons.
The exact cause of benign growth on the skin is unknown. However, the below-listed factors may increase their risk:
- Systemic disease - Skin growth like warts may develop due to underlying systemic disorders.
- Genetic changes.
- Environmental factors like increased sun exposure, temperature changes, etc., have a significant role in developing skin growth.
Melanoma is a severe skin cancer that rapidly spreads to other body parts. Factors like increased sun exposure, immunosuppression, fair skin, and family history may increase its risk. The typical sign of melanoma are as follows:
- Asymmetrical mole.
- Increasing mole size.
- Irregular border.
- Change in mole color.
During stage 1, the skin lesion is small and 1 mm thick, and it may not spread to nearby lymph nodes or tissues.
Most skin growths are benign and are commonly treated for cosmetic purposes. However, the dermatologist suggests the following treatments to get rid of unusual growth on the face:
- Electrosurgery - The doctor uses a high-frequency electric current to remove the skin growth.
- Cryotherapy - The dermatologist uses an instrument or device to freeze the abnormal skin growth to destroy it.
- Laser Surgery - It aids in removing skin tags and may clear the wrinkles and pigmentation in the face.
The cells in the upper (epidermis) and middle (dermis) layer of the skin secrete a protein called growth factors. These growth factors are essential in repairing damaged skin and provide fitness and elasticity to the skin. Unfortunately, the aged skin contains a decreased level of growth factors leading to wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. Therefore, the dermatologist may recommend using skin care products that consist of high amounts of stable growth factors. These products may aid in skin rejuvenation.
Skin growth is more common in folded areas like armpits, groin, etc. It may also develop on the eyelids due to increased age, hormonal changes, or other factors. However, the skin growth on the eyelid may not cause any symptoms. In addition, consult a dermatologist to get the best advice on treating skin growth on eyelids. The following options are indulged in treating skin growth on eyelids:
- Cryotherapy - The skin growth is frozen and removed using liquid nitrogen or other compounds.
- Excision - The dermatologist uses sterile scissors to cut off the skin growth.
- Electrosurgery - The dermatologist uses an instrument to deliver an electric current that removes the skin growth and controls the bleeding.
The characteristics of benign skin growth depends on its type. It includes:
Moles appear flat or raised black.
- Keloids look thick-like fibrous scars.
- Dermatofibroma lesions appear with red-purplish bumps mostly over the arms, back, and legs.
- The pyogenic granuloma may occur after an injury, and it bleeds easily. It appears as tiny, red, and raised bumps.
Benign skin growths are harmless but may appear unpleasant. However, it is essential to visit a dermatologist for the correct diagnosis and treatment of such skin growth. The following skin changes require immediate medical attention:
- Change in mole size, color, and shape.
- Itching and pain.
- Larger skin growth.
- Skin discoloration.
Precancerous skin growth has a high risk of developing into cancer. It is usually considered a warning sign, including actinic keratosis, actinic cheilitis, Bowen’s disease, etc. These lesions require immediate treatment to prevent their progression into squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. The factors that elevate their progression are ultraviolet radiation, viral infection, genetic conditions, and associated family history. The dermatologist may suggest sunscreen cream, medications, and surgical treatment like cryosurgery if necessary to reduce its progression.
Last reviewed at:
20 May 2022 - 5 min read
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