What You Need to Know About Seborrheic Keratosis

Yes, our skin changes as we age. Glad we got that out of the way! Our skin gets thinner, less resilient, and it starts losing its “plumpness.” Some of us may even have to deal with skin growths called seborrheic keratosis.

Seborrheic keratosis is a benign, non-cancerous growth that typically begins to develop after the age of 40. These lesions are often brown, grayish, or tannish in color. They can also often be scaly or crusty and have a “stuck on” appearance on the skin. The most common places on the body you will find them are on the back, below the breasts, and along the hairline, but they can also be found on the face, scalp, and shoulders. While one can appear on its own, multiple growths are more common. They are not, however, contagious. Your Provider will be able to diagnose seborrheic keratosis by the appearance of the growths and sometimes by touch.

Symptoms and When to See Your Provider

Seborrheic keratosis (SK) is usually asymptomatic but sometimes can be itchy. They should be evaluated if they become symptomatic such as intense itching, pain, or bleeding. These growths are not dangerous, but it is best to get them checked out to ensure it’s not something else. They are sometimes confused with skin cancers such as melanoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. If your Provider thinks it might be a skin cancer, they will perform a biopsy to check for it.

What Causes Seborrheic Keratosis?

It is not known what causes these growths. They are most commonly seen in middle-aged and elderly individuals, starting to develop after the age of 40. Genetics does seem to play a role and probably determines the number of seborrheic keratoses a person develops. There is no prevention for developing seborrheic keratosis.


Lesions typically do not need treatment. However, if they start to become irritated or bleed, or you would like them removed for cosmetic reasons, there are different options. Your Provider will decide the best option for your particular growth and discuss the procedure with you and the risks involved with it.

  • Cryotherapy – Freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen can be an effective way to remove a seborrheic keratosis.
  • Shave Removal – this technique shaves or cuts the growth off using a scalpel. Sometimes it is used in conjunction with cryosurgery or electrosurgery.
  • Electrosurgery with curettage – Using an electrical current to heat and burn off the growth. This may be used in conjunction with curettage on thicker growths.

Cryosurgery will not permanently remove the growths, but other treatments may with some risk of scarring. When planning for these procedures, remember that cosmetic treatments are not covered by insurance.

If you have concerns about a growth and are suspicious of skin cancer, then our Providers at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Surgery can see you and make a diagnosis. They are highly experienced at diagnosing growths. You can schedule a consultation online for any of our four locations. You can also find the address and phone number for each location here.

About Our Provider

Paul Dunn, M.D., FAAD – Dr. Dunn is a Board-Certified Dermatologist specializing in general dermatology and skin cancers. He has a passion for helping patients with complicated skin conditions. One of his favorite things about being a General Dermatologist is the rewarding interactions he has with patients and being able to help them with their skin issues. You can visit him at three of our locations – Spokane North and Spokane Valley, WA, as well as Coeur d’Alene, ID.