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 aren't harmful.
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 teenage years. Some women get them during pregnancy or after taking estrogen. Children seldom have them.
Experts don't 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 warts, moles, skin tags, or melanoma (skin cancer).
Your doctor 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:
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.
If your doctor says your skin growth is a seborrheic keratosis, you usually don't need to worry about it. But if it is growing fast, looks unusual, or is bleeding or causing pain, see your doctor. You may be referred to a dermatologist.
Learning about seborrheic keratoses:
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.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineBrian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Current as ofOctober 13, 2016
Current as of: October 13, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.