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Recognizing a Seborrheic Keratosis (And Why It Matters)

Seborrheic keratosis may sound intense, but these skin growths are harmless. They’re also very common, affecting most people at least once in their lifetime. Recognizing whether you’re dealing with a seborrheic keratosis or something more serious is important, especially since certain forms of precancerous growths and even skin cancer can look pretty similar.

At the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Dr. Hendi diagnoses suspicious skin growths and provides treatment using the latest advances in skin care. In this blog, Dr. Hendi explains the basics of seborrheic keratosis and why getting suspicious skin conditions checked out is important.

The basics of seborrheic keratosis

A seborrheic keratosis is a noncancerous skin growth. They can range in color from light tan to dark brown or black. They often have a rough and bumpy surface that crumbles easily, but some are smoother and more waxy.

A seborrheic keratosis can vary in size, too, from tiny to larger than three centimeters. And while they’re typically painless, some people experience a bit of itchiness. You might develop one seborrheic keratosis or hundreds.

What causes them to develop isn’t known, but they tend to run in families and develop with aging. A great deal of sun exposure may also contribute to their development. These growths can appear on any part of your body, but they most often show up on the back and chest.

Seborrheic keratosis vs. actinic keratosis

One type of skin growth that can look exactly like a seborrheic keratosis is known as actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis growths develop due to repeated sun exposure without proper protection and, unlike seborrheic keratosis, these growths can lead to cancer.

These growths can also look a bit different from seborrheic keratosis, as they can appear red, pink, gray, yellow, or white. They may also feel tender to the touch or cause burning, stinging, or itching sensations. And, in some cases, an actinic keratosis can bleed, a sign shared with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

Fortunately, actinic keratosis can be treated. We may recommend a prescription medication, which can also eliminate additional actinic keratosis growths you can’t yet see. If you only have one visibible actinic keratosis, we may suggest removal through freezing, light therapy, or a simple surgical procedure.

While seborrheic keratosis growths don’t usually need any treatment, you can opt to have them removed if you’re bothered by them. 

If you’re showing signs of what may be a seborrheic keratosis, our experts can give your growth a thorough evaluation, tell you what’s going on, and discuss and next steps if necessary. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ali Hendi, MD, today.

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