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Benign skin growths

​​​​​​​​​​​​​As you age, it's common for your skin to change. Some of these changes may be benign skin growths.​

Most of these growths respond to treatment and are harmless, but ​it's important to visit a Marshfield Clinic Dermatologist and let them evaluate the growths.

What are benign skin growths?

As a person grows older and is exposed to sunlight, the skin changes in response to this exposure. Most people have some skin marks, such as freckles and moles, which may multiply or darken over time.

What are the different types of skin growths?

Skin growth

Characteristics

Treatment

Dermatofibromas

Small, firm, red or brown bumps caused by an accumulation of fibroblasts (soft tissue cells under the skin). They often occur on the legs and may itch.

Dermatofibromas can be surgically removed if they become painful or itchy.

Dermoid cyst

A benign tumor which is made up of hairs, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. Some internal dermoid tumors may even contain cartilage, bone fragments, and teeth.

Dermoid cysts may be removed surgically for cosmetic reasons.

Freckles

Darkened, flat spots that typically appear only on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Freckles are common in people with blond or red hair.

No treatment is necessary for freckles.

Keloids

Smooth, firm, raised, fibrous growths on the skin that form in wound sites. Keloids are more common in African-Americans.

Keloids respond poorly to most treatment approaches. Injections of corticosteroid drugs may help to flatten the keloids. Other treatment approaches may include surgery or silicone patches to further flatten the keloids.

Keratoacanthomas

Round, flesh-colored growths that have a crater that contains a pasty material. These growths tend to appear on the face, forearm, or back of the hand. They usually disappear after a couple of months, but may leave scars.

Treatment usually includes a skin biopsy to rule out skin cancer. Other treatment may include surgical removal or injections of corticosteroids or fluorouracil.

Lipomas

Round or oval lumps under the skin caused by fatty deposits. Lipomas are more common in women and tend to appear on the forearms, torso, and back of the neck.

Lipomas are generally harmless, but if the lipoma changes shape, your doctor may do a biopsy. Treatment may include surgical removal.

Moles (nevi)

Small skin marks caused by pigment-producing cells in the skin. Moles can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some contain hair. Most moles are dark brown or black, but some are skin-colored or yellowish. Moles can change over time and often respond to hormonal changes.

Most moles are benign and no treatment is necessary. Some benign moles may develop into skin cancer (melanoma). See below for signs.

Atypical moles (dysplastic nevi)

Larger than normal moles (more than a half inch across), atypical moles are not always round. Atypical moles can be tan to dark brown, on a pink background. These types of moles may occur anywhere on the body.

Treatment may include removal of any atypical mole that changes in color, shape or diameter. In addition, people with atypical moles should avoid sun exposure, since sunlight may accelerate changes in atypical moles. People with atypical moles should see a doctor for any changes that may indicate skin cancer.

Pyogenic granulomas

Red, brown, or bluish-black, raised marks caused by excessive growth of capillaries (small blood vessels) and swelling. Pyogenic granulomas usually form after an injury to the skin and bleed easily.

Some pyogenic granulomas disappear without treatment. Sometimes, a biopsy is needed to rule out cancer. Treatment may include surgical removal.

Seborrheic keratoses

Flesh-colored, brown, or black wart-like spots. More common in middle-aged and older people, seborrheic keratoses may be round or oval and look like they are "stuck" on the skin.

Usually, no treatment is needed. If the spots are irritated, or the person wants them removed for cosmetic reasons, treatment may include freezing the area with liquid nitrogen or surgery.

Skin tags

Soft, small, flesh-colored skin flaps on the neck, armpits, or groin.

If the skin tags are irritated, or the person wants them removed for cosmetic reasons, treatment may include freezing the tags with liquid nitrogen or surgery.

Distinguishing benign moles from melanoma

According to recent research, certain moles are at higher risk for changing into cancerous growths, including malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

Moles that are present at birth and atypical moles have a greater chance of becoming malignant.

Recognizing changes in your moles, by following this ABCDE Chart, is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma and other cancerous skin growths at their earliest stage of development when treatment is most likely to be effective.

The warning signs include:

Normal mole / melanoma

Sign

Characteristic

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing asymmetry

Asymmetry

When half of the mole does not match the other half

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing border irregularity

Border

When the border (edges) of the mole is ragged or irregular

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing color

Color

When the color of the mole varies throughout

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing diameter

Diameter

If the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser

 

Evolving

Changes in the way the mole looks over time

Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute

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If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)

How Much Do You Know About Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Although skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, melanoma cases make up less than 1% of all skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Find out how much you know about melanoma by taking this quiz.

1. What is true about melanoma?
2. Melanoma often develops from which of these skin features?
3. Which of these may be a warning sign of melanoma?
4. Melanoma is most likely to be cured if:
5. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing sunscreen when?
6. Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how a sunscreen is able to protect the skin from which of these?
7. What's an important part of the body to protect with sunscreen?
8. Although melanoma occurs mainly on the skin, where else can it start?