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Medical Dermatology

Seborrheic Keratosis

What is a Seborrheic Keratosis?

A Seborrheic keratosis (SK) is a harmless, noncancerous skin growth that is very common in people over age 60. However, they actually begin to form in the 30s and 40s. They affect women and men, and people of all skin colors. Many people have numerous SKs.

SKs look like waxy, wart-like, scaly, flat or slightly raised lesions typically on the face, head, neck, chest and back. They may be tan, brown or black, round and appear to be pasted on the skin. They are usually symptom-free but occasionally they may become inflamed, irritated, or itchy.

What causes seborrheic keratoses?

The cause is not known but the tendency to develop SKs can run in families.

How are they diagnosed?

Your board-certified dermatology can diagnose an SK by its appearance. A dermatoscope, which is a magnifying light source may be used by your dermatologist to visual specific details of the lesion to make a diagnosis. However, sometimes these growths can appear similar to skin cancer and your dermatologist may remove the lesion to examine it under the microscope to rule out skin cancer.

How are SKs treated?

They are harmless and do not require treatment but may become cosmetically unappealing and may be removed. However, if the lesion becomes irritated or bleeds or is suspicious for skin cancer, it should be removed. After removal the treated areas may be lighter in color, but this often improves with time.

Treatment options include:

  • Cryotherapy or freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen.
  • Curettage or scraping the lesion with a scalpel. The area will be numbed before removal.
  • Electrocautery destroys the lesions with an electric current. The area will be numbed before removal.
  • Laser treatment can vaporize the growth.

Once removed, they generally do not reoccur, however new ones may appear in other areas. If you have a new or changing skin lesion, contact Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group to schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

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