Is Seborrheic Keratosis?
A seborrheic keratosis is a type of skin growth. They can be
unsightly, but the growths aren’t harmful. However, in some cases a seborrheic
keratosis can be difficult to distinguish from melanoma, a very serious type of
If your skin changes unexpectedly, you should always have it
looked at by a doctor.
Does Seborrheic Keratosis Look Like?
A seborrheic keratosis (plural: seborrheic keratoses) is usually
easily identified by appearance.
Multiple lesions may appear, although at the beginning there
may be just one. Growths can be found on many areas of the body, including the:
Growths are not found on the soles of the
feet or the palms.
Growths often start out as small, rough areas. Over time,
they tend to develop a thick, wart-like surface. They’re often described as
having a “stuck-on” appearance.
They may also look waxy and have slightly raised surfaces.
Growths are usually round or oval-shaped.
Growths are usually brown, but they can also be yellow,
white, or black.
Is at Risk of Developing Seborrheic Keratosis?
Risk factors for this condition include:
The condition often develops in those who are middle-aged.
Risk increases with age.
Family Members with Seborrheic Keratosis
This skin condition often runs in families. Risk increases
with the number of affected relatives.
Frequent Sun Exposure
There is some evidence
that skin exposed to the sun is more likely to develop a seborrheic keratosis.
However, growths also appear on skin that is usually covered up when people go
to See a Doctor
A seborrheic keratosis isn’t dangerous, but you shouldn’t
ignore growths on your skin. It can be difficult to distinguish between
harmless and dangerous growths. Something that looks like seborrheic keratosis could
actually be melanoma.
Have a doctor check your skin if:
- there’s a new growth
- there’s a change in appearance of an existing
- there’s only one growth (seborrheic keratosis usually
- a growth has an unusual color, such as purple,
blue, or reddish-black
- a growth has borders that are irregular (blurred
- a growth is irritated or painful
If you’re worried about any growth, make an appointment with
your doctor. It’s better to be too cautious than ignore a potentially serious
A dermatologist will often be able to diagnose seborrheic
keratosis by eye. If there’s any uncertainty, they’ll likely remove part or all
of the growth. This is called a skin biopsy.
The biopsy will be examined under a microscope by a trained
pathologist. This can help your doctor diagnose the growth as either seborrheic
keratosis or cancer (such as malignant melanoma).
Treatment Methods for Seborrheic Keratosis
In many cases, a seborrheic keratosis doesn’t need
treatment. However, a doctor may decide to remove any growths that have a
suspicious appearance or cause physical or emotional discomfort.
Methods of Removal
Three commonly used removal methods are cryosurgery, electrosurgery, and curettage.
the growth is frozen off using liquid nitrogen.
Electrosurgery uses an electrical current to scrape the
growth off. The area is numbed before the procedure.
A curettage is a scoop-like surgical instrument that is used
to scrape the growth. A curettage is sometimes used with electrosurgery.
Your skin may be lighter at the site of removal. The
difference in skin color often becomes less noticeable over time. Most of the
time a seborrheic keratosis won’t return, but it’s possible to develop a new
one on another part of your body.