A common reason why people come to the dermatology office is because they are growing new spots. These spots are noticed after the age of 30, generally. Sometimes the spots are quite dark, and they’re raised. They draw attention from family and friends, and you might hear something like “you really should go get that checked out!” Well, the spots I’m referring to are called Seborrheic Keratoses, or SK’s for short. These spots can range in color from light tan to black, be flat and waxy or be raised and warty in appearance. Sometimes they look scary, like a melanoma, and that prompts many people to seek a skin exam from a dermatology provider.
Seborrheic keratoses, AKA Age Spots, AKA Birthday Barnacles, are benign (not cancerous) growths that occur on most people. You’ve probably seen them on your grandparents’ arms or face. You can thank grandma and grandpa, and mom and dad for them, because they are hereditary. It’s a common misconception that they come from the sun or the liver. You will notice them more in the summer, as they tend to darken from sun exposure. You may only grow a few, or you may grow hundreds scattered all over the body. In general, they are easily distinguished from skin cancers, but sometimes they are tricky. Sometimes they mimic a melanoma or a squamous cell carcinoma. Or we will find a skin cancer hiding amongst the normal age spots.
SK’s are treatable if you don’t like them cosmetically, but we usually leave them alone unless they bother you. Sometimes they become inflamed, red and itchy, and this prompts a visit to the dermatology office to have them removed. Removal is simple, and options can be discussed with your provider. It is advisable to have your skin examined by your trusted dermatology provider and not treat them yourself, so we can make sure they are all normal. Take care of the skin you’re in!