Very often, growths are manifestations of advancing age. This simply means that as people get older, their skin cells do not always function as well as they did in youth. As aging cells reproduce, they may produce odd little anomalies. Sun damage and hormonal changes, such as those occurring in pregnancy or menopause, can have a similar effect. And sometimes, things just appear on the skin for no apparent reason at all. Although patients become concerned when they hear the word “growth,” the term does not necessarily imply that a condition is serious. Most common skin growths are completely harmless, although some have the potential for developing into skin cancers and others may be the sign of an underlying disease that requires treatment.
Sebaceous hyperplasia: Sebaceous hyperplasia are small yellowish bumps, sometimes surrounding a central depression containing what looks like a large pore or blackhead. They represent the presence of enlarged oil glands under the skin. However, they do not produce oil and they do not cause an oily complexion.
Seborrheic keratoses: Seborrheic keratoses (SKs) are little collections of the skin protein keratin, the substance that makes up the outer surface of the epidermis. They usually start out as smooth, pale yellowish spots that turn into scaly tan, brown or gray plaques. They are typically raised above the surface of the skin, with sharp edges that make them look as if they have been stuck on. SKs are thought to be caused by age or hormone-related changes to the keratinocytes, the cells that produce keratin. These are the most common benign skin growths.
Skin tags: Skin tags are harmless, fleshy, usually minuscule growths made of tiny collections of redundant epidermal cells that hang on like fine stalks. They are rarely more than a fraction of an inch in size and may be flesh colored or any shade of brown. They most commonly appear in skin creases. The tendency to get skin tags appears to be inherited and affected by hormonal changes.
Moles: Moles are small growths consisting of nevus cells, which are variants of melanocytes, the cells that produce the brown pigment melanin.
Warts: Warts (verrucae) are benign tumors caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). The visible part of a wart is an overgrowth of scaly epidermal cells. They can occur anywhere on the body, but are most frequently seen on the hands, feet, legs, and genitals.