Seborrheic keratosis is a benign form of skin tumor. The cause is unknown.
The condition commonly appears after age 40 and tends to run in families.
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 raised, 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 many growths
Exams and Tests
Diagnosis is mainly based on the way the growths appear. A skin lesion biopsy may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment is usually not needed unless the growths become irritated or are unsightly.
If treatment is needed, growths may be removed with surgery or freezing (cryotherapy).
Removing the growths is simple and usually does not cause scars. However, growths on the trunk often leave the skin lighter colored.
Growths usually do not return after they are removed. However, people who tend to get this condition may develop more growths in the future.
Irritation, bleeding, or discomfort of growths
Misdiagnosis (it may be difficult to tell apart from cancerous melanoma in some cases)
Psychological distress from change in appearance
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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
A growth that looks like a seborrheic keratosis, but it is the only growth or the growth has irregular borders and color. Your health care provider will need to determine whether the growth is melanoma.
Brodsky J. Management of benign skin lesions commonly affecting the face: actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis, and rosacea. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009;17:315-320.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also 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.