My Skin Centre

What is Seborrheic Keratosis?

When you have had a skin and mole check your main concern will probably be melanoma. If you are fortunate enough to get the all clear it will be a big relief. However, in your report you may notice some unusual sounding words to describe the examined spots on your body. One of these could be seborrheic keratosis, and while it may sound ominous it really is nothing to worry about:

What Is Seborrheic Keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis is a non cancerous growth which can appear on the skin. It may also be referred to as basal cell papilloma or seborrheic warts. This is slightly different from your traditional mole which involved melanocytes. They can occur when the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) thickens in a small area.

What are the Main Causes?

It is generally associated with ageing, but can also be caused by excessive sunlight. Often this is more obvious for those with a family history, as genetics can play a part. Being sun safe is one way to reduce the risk of seborrheic keratosis, as well as more serious skin conditions such as melanoma.

Where Will These Appear?

The most common areas for seborrheic keratosis to present itself are the face, shoulders, scalp, legs, chest or back. Remember, these can appear anywhere but are more prevalent in areas of the skin which have been subjected to long term sun exposure.

What Does it Look Like?

A seborrheic keratosis will usually have a waxy or wart-like appearance. It can be dark brown, light brown or black and might be slightly raised. They usually grow fairly slowly and can appear at any time, but older Australians will likely see these more frequently. The size can vary and they could be anywhere from a small spot to an inch in length.

Does it Need to be Checked?

It can be difficult to differentiate between a seborrheic keratosis and skin cancer, so it is always recommended any new growths are checked by an expert. There shouldn’t be any cause for pain, but occasionally you may experience itchiness in the area. Self monitoring your skin between appointments will ensure you can flag any new growths or skin changes.

Should it be Removed?

This is non cancerous and there is generally no need for removal. However, sometimes people choose to remove a seborrheic keratosis for cosmetic purposes. If this appears in an inconvenient position, it may become irritated if it comes into contact with clothing and starts to rub. For those who are looking for removal, different options to do this may include freezing, burning, scraping or laser treatments.

Sometimes a biopsy may be requested to confirm the diagnosis.

If you are concerned about anything on your skin it is important you have it checked. It is not always easy to know just by looking at a seborrheic keratosis whether or not it is in fact a melanoma. Check in with one of our WA skin clinics and one of our experienced team members will be able to access your skin for abnormalities!