Skin tags – symptoms, causes and other risk factors

Skin tags

Skin tags are small and soft, skin – colored growths which are hanging off the skin and they look a bit like warts. They are very common and harmless. They can vary in color and size. In their size, skin tags can be a few millimeters up to 5 cm, which is about 2 inches, wide. Skin tags are usually found under the breasts, around the groin, on the armpits and neck. Skin tags can also grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks. Skin tags are made of blood vessels and loose collagen surrounded by skin. Collagen is a type of protein which is found throughout the body. It is known fact that both men and women can develop skin tags. Skin tags tend to happen in people who are obese or who have diabetes type 2 or in older people. [1] When women are pregnant, they have changes in their hormone levels so they also have increased risk of developing skin tags [2]. There are some people who develop skin tags without apparent reason. Skin tags tend to grow in the skin folds such as on the groin, armpits and neck. Skin folds are the places of the body where the skin rubs against itself. This is a reason why skin tags tend to affect overweight people who have excess folds of their skin and skin chafing [1]. They are harmless and they do not usually cause discomfort or pain. Some people are considering removing their skin tags because they are snagging in their cloths and jewelry and bleed or they are affecting their self – esteem. Talk with your doctor before you try to remove your skin tag because you will not know if it is sure for you. The skin tag removal is considered as cosmetic surgery and this is a reason why it should be done by a professional people. This problem can affect on your mental or physical health so you need to talk with your doctor.

Symptoms for skin tags

At the first period, the skin tag can appear as a tiny soft bump on the skin. As the time passes, the skin tag grows into a flesh – colored piece of skin which is attached to the surface of the skin by a stalk. It is very easy to wiggle or move a skin tag forth and back. The skin tag is painless. If it is rubbed a lot, then it can become irritated. If the skin tag is twisted on its stalk, then the blood clot can develop within and then the skin tag can become painful.

Causes: It is not know the exact reason for skin tags but they can happen when clusters of collagen and blood vessels become trapped inside thicker pieces of skin. They are more common in skin folds or creases, which means that they can be mainly caused by a skin rubbing against skin. There are some people who have shown an increased susceptibility to have skin tags. This condition is affecting both males and females. They most often happen in people with diabetes, in people who are obese and during pregnancy. Skin tags have also been associated with hyperinsulinemia which is a condition in there is too much insulin circulating in the blood.

Skin tags

Risk factors for skin tags

Skin tags can appear more common in:

  • Those whose close family members also have skin tags [3]
  • People with a sex – steroid imbalance, especially if there are changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone [4]
  • Those with some types of HPV (human papilloma virus) [5]
  • Women during pregnancy, possible due to hormonal changes and high levels of growth factors [2]
  • Those with diabetes [1]
  • People who are overweight and obese [1]

There are some studies in which are found that skin tags are more likely to happen with:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Dyslipidemia, for example, high cholesterol levels
  • Obesity [1]

Skin tags have also been linked to elevated high – sensitive C – reactive protein (which is a marker of inflammation) and insulin resistance.

There are some rare cases when skin tags are associated with:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome [6]
  • Birt – Hogg – Dube syndrome (BHD). This is a rare genetic condition which is characterized by skin tumors, including trichodiscomas, multiple fibrofolliculomas and acrochordon or skin tags. [7]

Cancerous tumors or carcinomas can also develop in colon and kidneys.


[1] El Safoury OS, Ibrahim M. A clinical evaluation of skin tags in relation to obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, age, and sex. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2011;56(4):393–7.

[2] Vora RV, Gupta R, Mehta MJ, et al. Pregnancy and skin. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2014;3(4):318–24.

[3] American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). Skin tags. Retrieved from

[4] El Safoury O, Rashid L, Ibrahim M. A study on androgen and estrogen receptors α, β in skin tags. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2010;55(1):20–4.

[5] Gupta S, Aggarwal R, Gupta S, Arora SK. Human papillomavirus and skin tags: Is there any association? Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. 2008;74(3):222-5.

[6] Ndefo UA, Eaton A, Green MR. Polycystic ovary syndrome: A review of treatment options with a focus on pharmacological approaches. Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 2013;38(6):336-8,348,355.

[7] Toro JR, Glenn G, Duray P, et al. Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome: A novel marker of kidney neoplasia. Archives of Dermatology. 1999;135(10):1195-202.


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