Seborrheic keratoses are noncancerous skin growths that commonly affect individuals over 50 years of age. While the exact cause of these growths is not known, the do tend to be hereditary.

A seborrheic keratosis usually appears as a raised, round, or oval scaly spots on the face, arms, chest, or back. Typically, a seborrheic keratosis is small, usually under an inch, and looks as if it has been pasted onto the surface of the skin. It may range in color from tan to black.

Seborrheic keratoses do not usually cause discomfort, although they may sometimes itch. If they are located in an area where clothing rubs against them, they may bleed.

If removal of one or many seborrheic keratoses is desired, there are several methods the physician may employ. These procedures include:

  • Cryosurgery (freezing with liquid nitrogen)
  • Curettage (scraping the spot off the surface of the skin)
  • Electrocautery (using an electric current to remove)

Dermatologists are normally able to diagnose a seborrheic keratoses through simple physical examination, though sometimes a biopsy is necessary to differentiate it from a skin cancer. For a lay person, however, it may be difficult to distinguish a seborrheic keratosis from a more serious skin condition. It is always wise for patients to consult with their dermatologist if they see something that is new, darker, changing, or bleeding.

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