Over our lifetime our exposure to the sun may result in us finding different types of benign (non-cancerous) growths on our skin as we age.
It’s important to know that many benign skin growths are not harmful to your health, and may only require treatment for cosmetic reasons, while others can be proactively removed to prevent any tendency they may have to turn into skin cancer.
Characteristics: Small round brownish to red-purple bumps caused by an buildup of fibroblasts (soft tissue cells under the skin). They often occur on the legs and may itch. They are more common in women.
Treatment: Dermatofibromas can be surgically removed if they become painful or itchy.
Characteristics: A benign tumor which is made up of hairs, sweat glands, and sebaceous (oil) glands. Some internal dermoid tumors may even contain cartilage, bone fragments and teeth.
Treatment: Dermoid cysts may be removed surgically for cosmetic reasons.
Characteristics: Darkened, flat spots that typically appear only on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Freckles are common in people with blond or red hair.
Treatment: No treatment is needed for freckles.
Characteristics: Smooth, firm, raised, fibrous scars on the skin that form in wound sites. Keloids are more common in people with dark skin.
Treatment: Keloids respond poorly to most treatment approaches. Injections of corticosteroid drugs may help to flatten the keloids. Other treatment approaches may include surgery, radiation, laser, or silicone patches to further flatten the keloids.
Characteristics: Round or oval, easily movable lumps under the skin caused by fatty deposits. Lipomas tend to appear on the forearms, torso and back of the neck.
Treatment: Lipomas are generally harmless. But if the lipoma changes shape or you have symptoms, your health care provider may do a biopsy. Treatment may include surgical removal.
Characteristics: 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.
Treatment: Most moles are benign and no treatment is needed. Some benign moles may develop into skin cancer (melanoma). See below for signs.
Atypical Moles (dysplastic nevi)
Characteristics: 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: 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.
Characteristics: Red oozing and bleeding bump caused by excessive growth of capillaries (small blood vessels) and swelling. Pyogenic granulomas usually form after an injury to the skin and bleed easily.
Treatment: Some pyogenic granulomas disappear without treatment. Sometimes, a biopsy is needed to rule out cancer. Treatment may include surgical removal and electrodessication of the base.
Characteristics: 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.
Treatment: 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.
Characteristics: Soft, small, flesh-colored skin flaps on the neck, armpits or groin. They are very common. They may be linked to metabolic syndrome and increased risk of heart disease.
Treatment: If the skin tags are irritated, or the person wants them removed for cosmetic reasons, treatment may include freezing the tags with liquid nitrogen, electrodesiccation, or surgery by cutting them off.
Cryosurgery: This method is for growths that are very small and near the skin’s surface. Our team uses a device that sprays liquid nitrogen onto the tumor to freeze cells and destroy them.
Shave excision: You are given a local anesthetic before our team uses a small blade to shave off the growth.
Simple excision: Our team uses a scalpel to remove the growth from the skin. Some of the healthy tissue around it is also removed if skin cancer is suspected.
Curettage and electrodessication: This procedure removes tissue and cauterizes the area using a sharp, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. After curettage, your physician passes an electric needle over the surface of the scraped area to stop any bleeding.
Laser treatment: Laser therapy uses a narrow beam of intense light to remove small growths.
Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion removes the top layer of skin with a rotating wheel or small particles that rub away skin cells.
Certain moles are at higher risk for changing into cancerous growths such as malignant melanoma, a more serious form of skin cancer. Moles that are present at birth and atypical moles have a greater chance of becoming cancerous. That’s why detecting and treating cancerous skin growths early is so important. Why? Because when caught early, the treatment is usually highly effective with an extremely high cure rate.
Use this ABCDE chart below to help you quickly and more easily identify any changes in your moles and make an appointment to see our team.
When half of the mole does not match the other half
When the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular
When the color of the mole varies throughout
If the mole’s diameter is larger than a pencil’s eraser
Changes in the way the mole looks over time