Seborrheic Keratoses

If you notice a number of bumps on your skin that turn into waxy brown spots, don't be alarmed. They're not signs of skin cancer; they're seborrheic keratoses — common, benign skin growths that look like trouble but aren't.


Not pretty. But not dangerous.

Conditions and Causes

Seborrheic keratoses are harmless masses, typically round or oval in shape, that range in size from small specks to more than an inch in diameter. The color can be white, tan, brown, or black.They may be flat or slightly elevated, with a scaly surface and a waxy, "pasted on" look. They are often confused with warts, moles, actinic keratoses, or skin cancers.

Seborrheic keratoses tend to occur in middle-aged and older adults. You may have a single growth, but they are most commonly found in clusters on the trunk, scalp, face, or neck. Although the cause is unknown, you are more likely to develop seborrheic keratoses if a family member has them. They are not contagious.


The Treatment

Seborrheic keratoses require no treatment, but you may want to have them removed if they are unsightly or uncomfortable, or if they are irritated by your clothing or jewelry. Do not scratch or rub them, as this may lead to inflammation, bleeding, or infection. You should see us to make sure your growths are, in fact, seborrheic keratoses.

  • You should also see us for treatment if you have:
  • A suspicious growth that changes rapidly, bleeds, or doesn't heal
  • Many skin growths developing over a few weeks or months

Either of these could be a sign of skin cancer.

  • We can remove keratoses in a variety of ways:
  • Cryosurgery Liquid nitrogen freezes the growth, which falls off in a few days.
  • Electrosurgery After numbing the keratosis, the doctor uses an electric current to burn or cauterize it. This procedure is also called electrocautery.
  • Curettage Often combined with electrosurgery, curettage involves scraping the growth off the skin with a curette, a scoop-shaped surgical instrument.
  • Laser surgery A laser treatment will vaporize the growth.

After removal your skin may be lighter where the seborrheic keratosis was. This condition often resolves with time. On occasion, a new seborrheic keratosis will form in place of the old one, or new ones may appear in a different location.


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