Seborrheic keratosis

  • Definition
    • Seborrheic keratosis is a condition that causes wart-like growths on the skin. The growths are noncancerous (benign).

  • Alternative Names
    • Benign skin tumors - keratosis; Keratosis - seborrheic; Senile keratosis

  • Causes
    • Seborrheic keratosis is a benign form of skin tumor. The cause is unknown.

      The condition commonly appears after age 40. It tends to run in families.

  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms of seborrheic keratosis are skin growths that:

      • Are located on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas
      • Are painless, but may become irritated and itch
      • Are most often tan, brown, or black
      • Have a slightly raised, flat surface
      • May have a rough texture (like a wart)
      • Often have a waxy surface
      • Are round or oval in shape
      • May look "pasted-on"
      • Often appear in clusters
  • Exams and Tests
    • Your health care provider will look at the growths to determine if you have the condition. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Treatment
    • You usually do not need treatment unless growths get irritated or affect your appearance.

      Growths may be removed with surgery or freezing (cryotherapy).

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • Removing the growths is simple and usually does not cause scars. You may have patches of lighter skin where growths on the torso have been removed.

      Growths usually do not return after they are removed. You may develop more growths in the future if you are prone to the condition.

  • Possible Complications
    • These complications may occur:

      • Irritation, bleeding, or discomfort of growths
      • Mistake in diagnosis (growths may look like skin cancer tumors)
      • Distress due to physical appearance
      • Many growths that come on suddenly (may be a sign of cancer inside the body)
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of seborrheic keratosis.

      Also call if you have new symptoms, such as:

      • A change in the appearance of the skin growth
      • New growths
      • A growth that looks like a seborrheic keratosis, but occurs by itself or has ragged borders and irregular color. (Your health care provider will need to examine it for skin cancer.)
  • References
    • Brodsky J. Management of benign skin lesions commonly affecting the face: actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis, and rosacea. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009;17:315-20. PMID: 19465852

      James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 29.

      Requena L, Requena C, Cockerell CJ. Benign epidermal tumors and proliferations. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 109.