Growths

Is a bump or raised lesion on your skin worrying you?

Patients are often concerned about raised spots, thinking they could be cancer or precancer. Though not necessarily any cause for concern, most patients prefer to remove these spots. Growths can be unsightly and bothersome, especially if they are getting caught in clothing or creating uncomfortable friction.

What could that growth be? A consultation with Dr. Day will give you a specific answer, but these are some common culprits:

Melanocytic Nevus: The medical term for a common mole! Most people have between 10-40 moles that appear during childhood and adolescence. While moles in children can grow proportionally as they grow, any change in a mole or birthmark should be shown to your dermatologist.  

In adults, these same changes, or the appearance of new moles, may be a sign of the most serious form of skin cancer. More than 50% of the deadliest type of skin caner, malignant melanoma, arises in normally appearing skin. Melanoma can also occur in pre-existing moles, so you should check your skin on a regular basis. 

It is also extremely important to schedule an evaluation by a board certified dermatologist if you see a spot that is changing in any way. At your appointment, your dermatologist may choose to biopsy the mole to ensure that the spot is not cause for concern. 

Wart: Warts usually look like skin colored fleshy bumps that can sometimes have a rough texture and can bleed easily. Different types of warts appear on different parts of the body, and depending on where your wart is located, it can be painful. Warts are all caused by Human Papiloma Virus (HPV). There are over 90 types of HPV, and whenever you touch or come in contact with HPV, whether it be in your own home or by walking barefoot near the pool or the shower, you expose yourself to the virus. Warts often appear in areas where the skin was broken (so stop biting those hangnails!!). Fortunately, warts are easily treated. Treatment options include at-home product (i.e. salicylic acid), laser, and cryotherapy. 

Seborrheic Keratosis (SKs): These range from skin colored to dark brown, and are often described as having a thick or warty surface. Patients worry that their SK could be a melanoma because they see a change in color or size. However, these are genetic benign lesions, unrelated to sun. Blame this one on your relatives! Most people will get at least one in their lives, and despite the ubiquity, a lot of people find them unsightly and elect to have them removed using cryotherapy, electrodessication, or gentle scraping.

Actinic Keratosis (AKs): Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a flaky, scaly growth on the skin that is typically caused by chronic exposure to UV rays. For this reason, they often appear on parts of the body that are most exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, back, and scalp. While they can occur in any skin type, they are common in individuals who are more susceptible to sun damage, such as those with lighter skin who burn easily and tan poorly. 

While these are usually slow growing and more of a nuisance than a danger, if left untreated over long periods of time, they can evolve into a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Fortunately, there are many options available to treat AKs and restore your skin. Treatment options include cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy, topical chemotherapy creams, and laser resurfacing.

Skin Tag: These are skin colored out-pocketings that occur most commonly in areas where the skin folds, such as under the arms, behind the knee, and in the groin. While not at all dangerous, they can be removed easily if desired. While skin tags are benign, it is important for your dermatologist to evaluate them to confirm. Treatment options include electrodessication and removal with gradle excision. (While snipping it off sounds easy, please do not try this at home!)

Cherry Hemangioma: These are round, slightly protruding, ruby-red growths that are most often found on the trunk and increase in number as you age. Treatment options include electrodessication or pulse-dye laser. 

Lentigos: Lentigos are brown spots that occur in sun exposed areas of the face and body. They usually appear after the age of 30 and should be evaluated by your board certified dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis. 

Cyst: A cyst is a pocket of tissue that can enclose fluid, air, or other substances. While cysts can occur in many different organs, the skin is especially prone, as it contains millions of hair follicles which can all technically become cysts.

At your visit, Dr. Day can explore various options for removing a bothersome cyst, such as incision and drainage. 

Keratosis Pilaris: This extremely common skin condition appears as small bumps on the skin that can often look like goosebumps or the skin of a plucked chicken. Keratosis pilaris is technically plugs of dead skin cells in the follicles along the upper outer arms and thighs. It may worsen in the winter when cold dry air dehydrates the skin  This condition is totally harmless, though if it bothers you, your dermatologist can help you come up with an effective treatment plan. Some helpful tips include: 

  . Always moisturize after bathing, ideally within five minutes of getting out of the shower

  . Use moisturizers with ingredients that promote exfoliation, like lactic acid, urea, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid. 

  . Avoid over aggressive scrubbing or exfoliating as it can exacerbate KP, leaving your skin looking raw. 

Milia: These tiny, pearly bumps most commonly appear around the eyes, nose, chin and forehead. Milia will often disappear naturally over time and are not usually a cause for medical concern. However, they can be a sign that you are using a product that is too rich.