Seborrheic keratoses: Diagnosis and treatment

April 2021

A seborrheic keratosis, also known as seborrheic wart or corn spot, is a benign tumor that usually appears on the trunk of adults. It has been pointed out that many people will develop this condition without any particular reason. It is not cancerous and it does not pose any health risks to the patient. However, even if this type of lesion starts out small, it may grow considerably larger and become itchy and painful if neglected.


Seborrheic keratosis is a common type of benign tumor that strikes both children and adults. In fact, the approximate percentage of individuals who have seborrheic keratoses is more or less the same in both age groups. However, it is believed that this condition occurs at an earlier age in children than it does in adults. Overall, however, the prevalence of this tumor can be found within the adult population. In fact, it can be reported that as many as forty percent of these lesions are found on people over fifty years old.


Seborrheic keratosis may cause concern to those who know little about dermatology and are not sure about what is going on with their skin. However, this is not a dangerous condition and never causes any health problems. In fact, it tends to go away on its own. However, most patients will experience some degree of itching when they encounter seborrheic keratosis. This may develop in the form of redness, scaling or mild inflammation.


Individuals who develop this condition are usually quite unaware of what is happening to their skin. Despite the fact that it is not a serious condition that can lead to any physical problems, it may still cause significant distress to the patient because of its tendency to itch and be uncomfortable. It is also important to understand that seborrheic keratoses are not contagious nor do they spread from one person to another.


While seborrheic keratoses are not cancerous, they may be mistaken for actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Seborrheic keratoses may also be diagnosed as benign tumors of epithelial origin if a biopsy is not performed. Seborrheic Keratoses are brown or black bumps on the skin that grow in clusters and appear to be wart-like. They often resemble cracked earth and are usually found on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun over time such as parts of the face, arms, ears, chest or hands.


Seborrheic keratoses are between 15 to 20 millimeters in diameter and occur on the face, ears, chest, back and occasionally on the fingers and toes of older individuals. About one third of people who develop the condition will eventually develop tumors that are faster growing than the seborrheic keratoses. These tumors may be basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment for the seborrhoeickeratoses is not usually necessary unless there are symptoms that warrant a biopsy. Treatment for actinic keratosis is not necessary unless there are symptoms or if it becomes irritated or infected.


Seborrheic keratoses are often thought of as a condition that occurs in older individuals with fair skin. However, they can occur in people of all ages but there is a tendency to develop more seborrheic keratoses on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun over time such as parts of the face, hands, ears, and arms. Males and females have about equal chances of getting seborrheic keratoses.


The cause of seborrheic keratoses is not known. Recent research has shown that certain genes may play a role in increasing your chances to develop these brown or black bumps on your skin. These genes are called TERT and PAX3 and they are found on chromosome 16p12.


People who have a family member with seborrheic keratoses have a higher risk of developing the condition themselves. This is because the TERT and PAX3 genes make it easier for people to form seborrheic keratoses. This is not true in all families though. A family history of having seborrheic keratoses does not mean that you will definitely get them but it does increase your chances of getting them compared to other people in the same age group who do not have a family history of seborrheic keratoses.

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