Benign lesions 
Lentigines/Moles/Seborrheic Keratoses/Skin Tags

Most people acquire a variety of skin lesions over their lifetimes that do not resemble the surrounding skin. They are likely to be benign but may be a source of discomfort or concern. Some benign lesions include lentigines, moles, seborrheic keratoses and skin tags.

 


LENTIGINES
Also known as sunspots, age spots, or liver spots (although they have nothing to do with the liver), these are benign, pigmented spots on the skin with a clearly defined border. Unlike freckles, lentigines are usually discrete spots that do not fade. Lentigines are very common in people over 40 and can be found in areas of greatest sun exposure. Because lentigines are a marker for sun damage, people with lentigines are at somewhat increased risk for developing skin cancer.

MOLES
Also known as nevi, these growths may be pink, tan, brown or black and appear when cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in a cluster instead of being spread evenly throughout the skin. They are called congenital nevi when present at birth or acquired nevi when they appear during childhood or adulthood. Moles are seen anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups, especially in areas that have been exposed to the sun. Moles may darken following sun exposure or during pregnancy. As the years pass, moles usually change slowly, becoming raised and/or change color.

The vast majority of moles are not dangerous. The only moles that are of medical concern are those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear after age 40. It is important to examine your skin with a mirror or ask someone to assist, paying special attention to areas of the skin that are often sun exposed, such as the hands, arms, chest, neck, face, and ears. Albany Dermatology also offers the option of Photo Mole Mapping to monitor changes over time. For people who have a personal or family history of melanoma, a more frequent skin exam is recommended every 3 to 6 months.

Moles should be checked whenever changes are noted in color, height, size, or shape or if they bleed, ooze, itch, or become tender or painful. If you ever have a question about a change in a mole, do not ignore it but bring it to medical attention.

SEBORRHEIC KERATOSES
These are raised, benign growths that present in the upper layers of the skin (the epidermis). They are often pigmented, ranging in color from tan to dark brown to black. Seborrheic keratoses have a waxy, pasted-on appearance and are sometimes described as " candle wax on the skin." Seborrheic keratoses can appear on sun-exposed or covered areas but never grow on the palms or soles or in the mouth or eyes. Seborrheic keratoses are sometimes mistaken for warts or melanoma. However, unlike moles, seborrheic keratoses will never become a skin cancer. While treatment is not necessary, removal is an option when the growth is difficult to distinguish from a skin cancer; gets large; is easily irritated; and/or when unsightly to the patient.

SKIN TAGS
These are harmless growths that present as small, soft, fleshy areas of skin varying in number from 1 to hundreds. Some skin tags fall off spontaneously but most persist once formed. Skin tags are often hereditary and may be a marker for diabetes or obesity. Skin tags typically occur on the eyelids, underarms and groin folds, at the base of the neck, and under the breasts.

 

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ROBERT G. SHOSS, MD

DEBBIE FLAHERTY, MD

DAVID FOSTER, RPA-C

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