Should You Worry About Seborrheic Keratosis

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By the time a person reaches the age of 70, up to 75% of us will have somewhere on our bodyseborrheic keratosis.  Seborrheic keratosis is one of the most common, noncancerous skin growths, particularly in older adults and has no known cause.

These growths can appear anywhere on the body and can be brown, black, or light tan growths on the face, chest, shoulders or back.  They tend to resemble a wart, large mole or skin cancer with a waxy, scaly, or having sort of a “stuck on” appearance.  They can be isolated by themselves on the skin but usually there are multiple growths found clustered together in a certain area of the body. 

Seborrheic keratosis can start off as small, rough bumps but in time, they begin to gradually become thicker, developing a larger, more warty surface.  Their size can range from very tiny to up to 1 inch across in diameter.

Many people may question why they have developed these skin lesions when they did not have them before.  There really is no known cause but it is speculated that ultraviolet light from the sun could be one reason of them.  They tend to develop in areas of the body with frequent exposure to sunlight.  Another possibility of their cause is genetics with genetic mutation involvement as they tend to run in families.

When a person notices seborrheic keratosis on the body, they should have it examined by their doctor.  The doctor can do a physical and visual examination of the skin where seborrheic keratosis appears to rule out that it is not some form of skin cancer. 

Even though a lesion of seborrheic keratosis has similar feature of skin cancer, they are highly unlikely to be that.  A study at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed biopsies from 9,204 people who had seborrheic keratosis.  They found only 61 people or 0.66 percent of them were actually melanoma. 

For most cases of seborrheic keratosis, there is no treatment necessary.  However, there can be situations where it may be recommended to remove one:

·         If it is hard to distinguish it from skin cancer.  In this case, a biopsy would be done to determine the nature of the mole. If this is done, the seborrheic keratosis would be removed completely.

·         If a person wants it removed for cosmetic reasons.  They can be removed by cryosurgery, electrocautery, or curettage.  

·         If it is causing itching, or is large enough to be causing irritation with or “catching” onto clothing or jewelry.

 

A recent study from Massachusetts General Hospital is exploring the use of a nonsurgical topical treatment for seborrheic keratosis that may be a less invasive method of removal of this skin lesion.