Seborrheic Keratosis

(Benign Skin Tumors)


Seborrheic keratosis is a type of non-cancerous growth on the top layer of skin. These growths may look like warts.

Seborrheic keratoses are not contagious, do not spread, and do not turn into cancerous tumors. In most cases, treatment is not required.

Causes    TOP

The direct cause of seborrheic keratosis is unknown, but it may be linked to genetics.

Risk Factors    TOP

Seborrheic keratosis is more common in people aged 40 years and older and in those with a family history.

Symptoms    TOP

Seborrheic keratosis are thick growths that may:

  • Look yellow, tan, brown, white, or black
  • Be waxy or look like warts
  • Be round, flat, or oval in shape
  • Be itchy when irritated by clothing or jewelry
  • Appear anywhere on the skin

Some people have one lesion, but it is more common to have many.

It may be hard to detect the difference between seborrheic keratosis and melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer. It is important to see visit the doctor anytime new or changing skin lesions are noticed.

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor can usually make a diagnosis upon examination of the skin growth. You may need further testing, such as a skin biopsy, to rule out other skin conditions.

Punch Biopsy of the Skin

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Treatment    TOP

Seborrheic keratoses do not pose a health threat. The best course of action may be to leave them alone. If they itch or become irritated, or if they are unsightly, they can be removed.

Treatment options include:


Topical corticosteroids may be advised.


If a decision is made to remove the seborrheic keratoses, surgical options include:

  • Freezing the growth, which falls off a few days later
  • Removal with a razor or scalpel
  • Laser surgery to burn the growth off

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent seborrheic keratosis.


American Academy of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Dermatology Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Common benign skin lesions. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 24, 2017. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Seborrheic keratosis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 1, 2017.
Seborrheic keratosis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 1, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 9/2/2015

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