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Health Library : Dermatology

 

Other Benign Skin Growths

What are other 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 GrowthCharacteristicsTreatment
DermatofibromasSmall, 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 cystA 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.
FrecklesDarkened, 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.
KeloidsSmooth, 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.
KeratoacanthomasRound, 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 and/or injections of corticosteroids or fluorouracil.
LipomasRound 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 physician may perform a biopsy. Treatment may include removal by surgery.
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 and/or diameter. In addition, people with atypical moles should avoid sun exposure, since sunlight may accelerate changes in atypical moles. Persons with atypical moles should consult a physician with any changes that may indicate skin cancer.
Pyogenic granulomasRed, 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.Some pyogenic granulomas disappear without treatment. Sometimes, a biopsy is necessary to rule out cancer. Treatment may include surgical removal.
Seborrheic keratosesFlesh-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 necessary. If the spots are irritated, or the patient wants them removed for cosmetic reasons, treatment may include freezing the area with liquid nitrogen or surgery.
Skin tagsSoft, small, flesh-colored skin flaps on the neck, armpits, or groin.If the skin tags are irritated, or the patient 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 its earliest stage of development when treatment is most likely to be effective. The warning signs include:

Normal Mole / MelanomaSign

Characteristic

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing asymmetryAsymmetryWhen half of the mole does not match the other half
Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing border irregularityBorder

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

Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing colorColorWhen the color of the mole varies throughout
Photo comparing normal and melanoma moles showing diameterDiameter

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

 

EvolvingChanges in the way the mole looks
Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute

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Online Resources of Dermatology


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