Seborrheic keratoses (say "seh-buh-REE-ick kair-uh-TOH-seez") are
skin growths that some people get as they age. They are benign, which means
they aren't a type of cancer. The way they look may bother you, but they
These skin growths
often appear on the back or chest, but they can occur on any part of the body. They grow slowly and seldom go away on their own.
These skin growths are common in
middle-aged and older people, but they can appear as early as the teen years. Some women get them during pregnancy or after taking
estrogen. Children seldom have them.
What causes seborrheic keratoses?
know what causes seborrheic keratoses. But research has found that:
They tend to run in
They seem to be related to sun exposure.
What are the symptoms?
Seborrheic keratoses can itch, bleed easily, or become red and
irritated when clothing rubs them.
How the growths look
can vary widely. They:
Range in size from
tiny to larger than 1 in. (3 cm)
Range in texture from waxy and smooth to velvety to dry,
rough, and bumpy.
Range in color from white to light tan to
black. Most are brown. Some are multicolored.
May have dry scale, which you can easily pick
off, or have a surface that crumbles when picked.
dome-shaped with tiny white or black "horns" growing from the surface.
Can occur as a single growth or a cluster of growths.
Can look like
skin tags (small, soft pieces of skin that stick out
on a thin stem).
will look at the skin growth. He or she may need to take a sample (biopsy) of the
growth if it's not clear what the growth is or if it:
Itches or bleeds.
inflamed and red.
Is dark brown to black.
How are they treated?
Seborrheic keratoses don't
need to be treated. But if one bothers you or you don't like how it looks, your
doctor can remove it. Your doctor may:
Freeze it off (cryotherapy).
Cut it out (curettage or excision).
Use a tool
that burns it off (electrocautery or laser treatment).
Should you worry about seborrheic keratoses?
diagnosed seborrheic keratosis usually is nothing to worry about. But if you are unsure
what type of skin growth you have, see your doctor. It may be hard to tell
whether the growth is a keratosis, a mole, a wart, or skin cancer.
While it isn't common, skin cancer can grow in a seborrheic keratosis. So if you have a seborrheic keratosis that is growing fast, looks unusual, or is bleeding or causing pain, see your doctor or dermatologist.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides information
about the care of skin. You can locate a dermatologist in your
area by using their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Or you can read the latest news in dermatology. "SPOT Skin Cancer" is the AAD's program to reduce deaths from melanoma. There is also a link called "Skin Conditions" that has information about many common skin problems.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.