Skin Growths Q & A


While the majority of growths that occur on the skin are benign, evaluation of any new skin growth by a dermatologist is recommended as many benign-appearing growths can, in fact, be cause for concern. Dr. Lina Naga and Dr. Terrence Keaney of SkinDC perform full body skin examinations during which they assess all of the growths on a patient’s skin, as well as evaluate and/or treat specific new or changing skin lesions.


doctor looking for skin growth


What causes growths on the skin?

There are several types of benign growths that occur on the body that amount to nothing more than cosmetic nuisances. For example, seborrheic keratoses are common, rough and waxy growths that typically affect older adults. These spots may resemble skin cancer, but in fact are harmless and usually painless, unless jewelry or clothing irritate them. The cause of seborrheic keratoses is unknown, although the propensity to develop them often runs in families. Unlike many skin ailments, there seems to be no connection with sun exposure.

Dermatosis papulosa nigra, or DPNs, are raised or flat dark spots that often occur in clusters on the face and/or neck and often resemble moles or skin tags. They have no known cause and, typically, very little medical impact. While DPNs can occur on any skin type, they are most common in patients with darker complexions.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are small bulbs of flesh that protrude from the body. Usually found in areas where clothing or jewelry rub against the body, such as around the collar line or underarms, their development is sometimes thought to be related to friction. True skin tags are always non-cancerous, though there are some cancerous growths that may mimic the appearance of skin tags. Occasionally, a tag may be strangulated, causing discomfort and pain, but typically, skin tags have little impact on a person’s health. Removal is usually a cosmetic decision. Skin tags are treated in the office with destructive methods or sterile snip removal.

What causes cysts and lipomas?

Lipomas are irregular, benign tumors of fat. While they are typically painless, they can sometimes compress or trap nerves and blood vessels and become tender as they grow. The size of lipomas varies from just a few millimeters to expansive growths of 10 centimeters or more. Treatment for lipomas is typically surgical excision.

Cysts are firm, raised bumps in the skin that can become red and tender, often indicating that they are ruptured or infected. The most common kind of cysts contain keratin, a protein made by skin cells, that has become trapped under the skin, accumulating into a capsule and requiring surgical excision for removal. If a cyst is painful and swollen, or it ruptures, it may be time to see dermatologist. Never attempt to puncture or drain a cyst yourself.

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