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Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses (SKs) are common skin growths. These benign (non-cancerous) growths can occur almost anywhere on the skin. Some people get just one; others develop many. Having many SKs is more common.

Usually beginning as small, rough bumps, SKs tend to eventually thicken and develop a warty surface. Most are brown, but these growths range in color from light tan to black. Some SKs measure a fraction of an inch; others are larger than a half-dollar. A SK can be flat or raised. Sometimes the surface feels smooth.

What often distinguishes these growths from other lesions is a waxy, pasted-on-the-skin appearance. A SK can look like a dab of warm, brown candle wax on the skin. It also may resemble a barnacle attached to a ship. Either way, SKs tend to have that stuck-on-the-skin appearance.

While the exact cause remains unknown, researchers have discovered some key findings. SKs seem to run in families, and it appears that some people inherit a tendency to develop many SKs. Although these growths develop on both sun-exposed and non sun-exposed skin, some studies suggest that sun exposure may play a role. The exact cause is unknown. And while SKs may seem to multiply and spread to other areas, they are not contagious.

While anyone may develop SKs, these growths generally first appear in middle age or later. Occasionally, SKs erupt during pregnancy or following estrogen therapy. Children rarely have SKs.

Most often forming on the chest and back, SKs also can be found on the scalp, face, neck, or almost anywhere on the skin. They do not develop on the palms or soles.

Since SKs are benign, treatment is generally not necessary. There are times, though, when these lesions should be examined by a dermatologist. Sometimes a SK grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds, making it difficult to distinguish from skin cancer. Such a growth must be biopsied (removed and studied under a microscope) to determine if it is cancerous or not.

Treatment may be recommended if the growth is large or easily irritated by clothing or jewelry. Sometimes, a SK is treated because the patient considers it unsightly. In these last two cases, there are a few treatment options.

Cryosurgery, (freezing) electrosurgery,(use of a needle powered by electrical current) and curettage (a “scraping” procedure) are the most common options for removing SKs.

Seborrheic keratoses are best diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. Call Teton Dermatology at 307-734-1800 to schedule an appointment to evaluate your SKs and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Seborrheic keratoses are best diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. Call Teton Dermatology at 307-734-1800 to schedule an appointment to evaluate your SKs and develop a personalized treatment plan.