Also known as seborrheic verruca, most people will develop at least one seborrheic keratosis during a lifetime. Fortunately, these lesions are benign and don’t become cancerous and aren’t thought to be related to sun exposure, but they can look like skin cancer. They are characterized as brown, black or yellow growths that grow singly or in groups and are flat or slightly elevated. Often they are mistaken for warts. Seborrheic keratosis often appears on the face, chest, shoulders, or back. Generally, no treatment is required unless the growth becomes irritated from chafing against clothing. If irritated by clothing or for cosmetic reasons, they can be removed by a doctor. However, because it look similar in appearance to precancerous growths (actinic keratosis), your dermatologist will likely biopsy the tissue to confirm the diagnosis.
Seborrheic keratoses aren’t usually painful, but they can be bothersome depending on their size and location. Be careful not to rub, scratch or pick at them. This can lead to bleeding, swelling and, in rare cases, infection.
If a seborrheic keratosis becomes irritated or unsightly, removal is conducted using one of these three methods:
- Cryosurgery, which freezes off the growth using liquid nitrogen.
- Curettage, in which the doctor scrapes the growth off the surface of the skin.
- Electrocautery, used alone or in conjunction with curettage to burn off the tissue and stop the bleeding.