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Seborrheic keratosis – symptoms, causes and risk factors

One of the most common noncancerous skin growths in older adults is seborrheic keratosis. This condition usually appears as a black or light tan growth on the back, shoulders, chest or face. This growth has a scaly, waxy and slightly elevated appearance. You should know that the seborrheic keratosis do not become cancerous and it is not thought that it can be related to sun exposure but it can look like skin cancer. Normally, seborrheic keratosis is painless condition and it does not need any treatment.

If they become irritated by clothing, then you can remove them. Also many people remove seborrheic keratosis for cosmetic reasons. The seborrheic keratosis is usually in round or oval – shaped growth. These growths are usually brown, but also they can be black, white or yellow. These growths often start out as small and rough areas. As the time passes, they can develop a thick, wart – like surface. Many people are describing them as having “stuck on” appearance. Those people who are aged 50 or above have more chances of developing seborrheic keratosis. Also there are cases when seborrheic keratosis runs in families so the genetic mutation could be responsible for it.


Seborrheic keratosis

Usually, the seborrheic keratosis looks like a waxy or wart – like growth. It typically appears on the back, shoulders, chest and face of the body. Some people have a single growth of seborrheic keratosis while other people can develop cluster of seborrheic keratosis. Here are given some characteristics of seborrheic keratosis:

  • The seborrheic keratosis can itch
  • It can range in size from very small to more than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) across
  • It is flat or slightly elevated with a scaly surface
  • Has a characteristic “pasted on” look
  • It is round or oval shaped
  • It varies in color, usually from light tan to brown or black

Usually, seborrheic keratosis is not painful but they bother you depending on their location and size. You should be careful not to pick, scratch or rub at them. This can lead to swelling, bleeding and in rare cases infection. If you have noticed that many growths have developed over a time, then you should talk with your doctor. Also you should visit your doctor if your growths get bleed or irritated when your clothing rubs against them. You may want to remove the seborrheic keratosis.

If you have noticed suspicious changes in your skin, such as growths or sores which grow rapidly, bleed and do not heal, then they can be signs of skin cancer. Your dermatologist will diagnose the seborrheic keratosis by eye. If your dermatologist is not sure for the growth, then he or she will remove part of it and will send it in laboratory. This is known as skin biopsy. In many cases, this condition does not need any kind of treatment. If seborrheic keratosis is causing you an emotional or physical discomfort, or if the growths are showing suspicious appearance, then your doctor can remove them.


It is not known the exact cause for seborrheic keratosis. This is a very common condition and generally they increase in the number as people are getting older. You should know that seborrheic keratosis is not contagious condition. There are some cases when seborrheic keratosis can run in families so genetics can play a role in it.

Risk factors

Here are some factors which can increase your risk of getting seborrheic keratosis:

  • Frequent sun exposure: There are some studies in which are said that the skin exposed to the sun is having more chances to develop seborrheic keratosis compared to people who are not exposed on sun a lot. But also there are some cases when seborrheic keratosis can appear on the skin which is usually covered up when people go out.
  • Family members with seborrheic keratosis: There are some studies in which are shown that seborrheic keratosis often runs in families. The risk of getting it is increasing with the number of affected relatives.
  • Older age: Those people who are middle – aged are having increased chances of developing it compared to younger ones. It is known that the risk of getting seborrheic keratosis is increasing with age.
Ramesh Kumar
Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Ramesh kumar, BAMS is naturopathy doctor who is well versed with health benefits of all fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants


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