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Seborrheic Keratosis


Disease: Seborrheic Keratosis Seborrheic Keratosis
Category: Dermatological diseases
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Disease Definition:

A seborrheic keratosis appears as a brown, black or pale growth on the face, chest, shoulders or back, with a waxy, scaly, slightly elevated appearance. Multiple growths are quite common, but in some cases, it may appear singly.

One of the most common types of noncancerous skin growths in older adults is seborrheic keratosis. As a matter of fact, at some point in their lives, most people develop at least one seborrheic keratosis. Even thought this condition may look like skin cancer, in most cases seborrheic keratoses don't become cancerous.

Seborrheic keratoses are usually painless and don't require any treatment. However, if they become irritated by clothing or for cosmetic reasons, they can be removed.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


A seborrheic keratosis usually appears on the head, neck or trunk of the body and has the appearance of a waxy or wart-like growth. It usually:


  • Has a round or oval shape
  • Ranges in size from very small to more than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch)
  • Ranges in color, including yellow, light tan, brown or black
  • May itch
  • Has a characteristic "pasted on" look
  • Is flat or slightly elevated with a scaly surface

Depending on its size and location, a seborrheic keratosis may become bothersome. A person may develop one single growth or cluster of growths. Rubbing, scratching and picking them may lead to inflammation, bleeding and infection, so people should be careful not to do that.

If someone has seborrheic keratosis, they should see a doctor in case:


  • The growths get irritated or bleed when clothing rubs against them.
  • Many growths develop over a short time. Seborrheic keratoses usually appear one or two at a time over several years
  • The development of sores or growths that grow rapidly, bleed and don't heal; or other suspicious changes in the skin, which could be signs of skin cancer.


What exactly causes seborrheic keratoses is still not known, but genetics may play a role because this condition tends to run in families.

People may be more likely to develop seborrheic keratoses in case they’re over the age of 50 or have a family history of seborrheic keratoses. However, anyone could develop this condition.





Seborrheic keratoses usually don't require any treatment. However, if they become irritated, bleed when clothing rubs against them, or if a person simply doesn’t like how they look or feel, they may want them removed.

Usually, the removal of a seborrheic keratosis is simple and doesn't leave any scars because it's never deeply rooted. Seborrheic keratoses could be removed by several methods, such as:

In cryosurgery, seborrheic keratoses are frozen with liquid nitrogen. This is an effective way in removing seborrheic keratoses. However, this method may lighten the treated skin (hypopigmentation) and it doesn't work on large, thick skin growths.

Scraping the skin's surface with a special instrument (curettage):
Sometimes, to treat thinner or flat growths, curettage could be used along with cryosurgery. It could be used with electrocautery.

In electrocautery, seborrheic keratoses are burnt with an electric current. This is an effective way of removing seborrheic keratoses, which could be used either alone or with curettage. However, this procedure may take longer than other removal methods, and if not done correctly, it could leave scars.

Itching, inflammation, pain, infection and bleeding are some of the medical reasons for removing a seborrheic keratosis.


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