Seborrheic keratoses (say "seh-buh-REE-ick kair-uh-TOH-seez") are
skin growths that some people get as they age. They are benign, which means
they aren't a type of cancer. The way they look may bother you, but they
These skin growths
often appear on the back or chest, but they can occur on any part of the body. They grow slowly and seldom go away on their own.
These skin growths are common in
middle-aged and older people, but they can appear as early as the teen years. Some women get them during pregnancy or after taking
estrogen. Children seldom have them.
know what causes seborrheic keratoses. But research has found that:
Seborrheic keratoses can itch, bleed easily, or become red and
irritated when clothing rubs them.
How the growths look
can vary widely. They:
These growths may be mistaken for
skin tags, or
melanoma (skin cancer).
will look at the skin growth. He or she may need to take a sample (biopsy) of the
growth if it's not clear what the growth is or if it:
Seborrheic keratoses don't
need to be treated. But if one bothers you or you don't like how it looks, your
doctor can remove it. Your doctor may:
diagnosed seborrheic keratosis usually is nothing to worry about. But if you are unsure
what type of skin growth you have, see your doctor. It may be hard to tell
whether the growth is a keratosis, a mole, a wart, or skin cancer.
While it isn't common, skin cancer can grow in a seborrheic keratosis. So if you have a seborrheic keratosis that is growing fast, looks unusual, or is bleeding or causing pain, see your doctor or dermatologist.
Learning about seborrheic keratoses:
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides information
about the care of skin. You can locate a dermatologist in your
area by using their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Or you can read the latest news in dermatology. "SPOT Skin Cancer" is the AAD's program to reduce deaths from melanoma. There is also a link called "Skin Conditions" that has information about many common skin problems.
Other Works Consulted
Habif TP, et al. (2011). Seborrheic keratosis. In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 424–433. Edinburgh: Saunders.
Hall JC (2010). Tumors of the skin. In JC Hall, ed., Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 10th ed., pp. 208–304. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Motley RJ (2010). Seborrheic keratosis. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease, 3rd ed., pp. 697–698. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
January 22, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
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