Seborrheic keratosis: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | Health

Seborrheic keratosis is benign skin tumour that is commonly present in adult and elderly patients but they are benign skin lesions and often do not require treatment however, it is essential to be able to differentiate these lesions from other benign and malignant skin tumours. Seborrheic keratosis is a typical mole-like benign skin development which health experts opine, most people will have at least one in their lifetime.

They typically first arise in mid-adulthood and as people age, they do so more frequently and although they are not harmful and don’t need to be treated, if they bother you, you can get them removed. Warts and moles are technically epidermal tumours as well which only indicates that they are collections of extra cells on the epidermal, the skin’s outer layer and are not regarded as a skin cancer risk factor.


In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Gatha M Upadya, Consultant Dermatology at KMC Hospital in Mangalore’s Dr BR Ambedkar Circle, shared, “Although we don’t fully understand the reasons for these growths, we can examine the circumstances that frequently accompany them. The first factor is age; seborrheic keratosis is particularly prevalent in those over 50, and they frequently worsen with advancing age. According to certain research, exposure to light can make them more common. Additionally, they tend to run in families, which raises the possibility that genetics may be involved. They are neither bacterial nor viral. They are not contagious and they do not spread.”

According to Dr Deepa Krishnamurthy, Consultant-Dermatologist at Manipal Hospital in Sarjapur, “Actinic keratoses appear very similar to seborrheic keratosis mostly seen in exposed areas and have a tendency of turning malignant. Seborrheic keratoses seem to run in families. The strong sun rays may play a role in causing seborrheic keratosis. Hormonal changes like pregnancy and certain medications also can trigger seborrheic keratosis. It may also arise as an adverse reaction to a medication, such as adalimumab, vemurafenib, dabrafenib, 5-fluorouracil, and many chemotherapy drugs.”


Dr Deepa Krishnamurthy highlighted, “Seborrhoeic keratosis has a variable presentation. It may appear as a flat or raised papule or plaque, skin coloured, yellow, grey, light brown, dark brown, or black smooth, warty, waxy, or stuck on appearance. If irritated, seborrhoeic keratosis appears inflamed, red and crusted. It may give rise to eczematous dermatitis around the seborrhoeic keratosis. Eruptive seborrhoeic keratoses, which are when it appears many in number, may denote an underlying internal malignancy, most often gastric adenocarcinoma.”

Dr Gatha M Upadya pointed out that itching, friction-induced irritation and bleeding are some of the symptoms of seborrheic keratosis and if you find these signs bothersome, you might choose to get the growth removed.

Diagnosis and treatment:

Revealing that diagnosis can be made clinically by the appearance of the lesion by a dermatologist, Dr Deepa Krishnamurthy said, “Histopathology and dermoscopy help in confirming a diagnosis. There is no way to completely prevent the development of seborrheic keratosis. However, applying sunscreen regularly helps. Most seborrheic keratosis does not require treatment.”

She added, “A dermatologist may remove a seborrheic keratosis when it looks like skin cancer, gets caught on clothing or jewellery becomes irritated easily and seems unsightly to a patient. The treatment options available are cryotherapy liquid nitrogen which destroys the growth and the seborrheic keratosis falls off within days, electrocautery and/or curettage, ablative laser surgery and shave biopsy (shaving off with a scalpel).”