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Seborrheic keratosis

Definition

Seborrheic keratosis is noncancerous (benign) wart-like growths on the surface of the skin.

Alternative Names

Benign skin tumors - keratosis; Keratosis - seborrheic; Senile keratosis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Seborrheic keratosis is a benign form of skin tumor. The cause is unknown. The condition commonly appears after age 40.

Symptoms

Symptoms are skin growths that:

  • Are located on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas
  • Are usually painless, but may become irritated and itch
  • Are yellow, brown, black, or other colors
  • Have a slightly elevated, flat surface
  • May have a rough or wart-like texture
  • Often have a waxy surface
  • Have a round-to-oval shape
  • May have a "pasted-on" appearance
  • May be single, but are usually multiple growths

Signs and tests

Diagnosis is based primarily on the appearance of the growths. A skin lesion biopsy may be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment is usually not required unless the growths become irritated or are unsightly.

If treatment is needed, growths may be removed with surgery or freezing (cryotherapy).

Expectations (prognosis)

Removing the growths is simple and usually does not result in scars. However, growths on the trunk often leave the skin lighter colored.

In rare cases, a person who gets many growths very quickly may have gastric cancer.

Growths usually do not return after they are removed, but people who are prone to this condition may develop more growths in the future.

Complications

  • Irritation, discomfort of growths
  • Misdiagnosis (it may be difficult to tell apart from malignant melanoma in some cases)
  • Psychological distress from change in appearance

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of seborrheic keratosis.

Also call if you develop new symptoms, including:

  • A change in the appearance of the skin growth
  • New growths

Review Date: 10/3/2008
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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