How Do I Tell the Difference Between Harmless and Harmful Skin Growths?
Your skin consists of three layers that are designed to protect the rest of your body from harmful conditions.
Skin keeps weather, chemicals, pollution, and wounds from destroying your insides. Your skin also has to cope with internal toxins such as those expelled through your pores when you sweat. It warns you when something is going wrong on the inside. Conditions like rashes, hives, itching, or redness are your skin’s way of warning you that there’s a problem that needs your attention. Skin growths can be another warning.
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Skin Growths Are Diverse
Skin growths appear in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are flat and some protrude from the skin. Sometimes they disappear on their own. Most or benign, or noncancerous. Benign skin growths have many causes, some of which are as yet unknown.
The known causes include:
Additionally, benign growths can result from various health conditions and certain medicines. Benign growths aren’t usually removed.
Harmful Skin Growths
Although most moles and warts are benign, they can become malignant, or cancerous. Cancer results when cells grow uncontrollably. Those cells can potentially spread to the rest of the body, medically known as metastasis. Metastasis and can be life threatening. Moles especially need to be closely watched for changes.
More About Moles
Moles may appear as a tiny spot you barely notice or they may be up to 1/4 inch in diameter. They’re usually brownish in color, but can be any color from white to black. The surface can be smooth or bumpy, and the mole can be flat or raised. Moles can appear at any time of your life and at any place on your body. Once a mole appears, it rarely goes away. Moles are not contagious.
Those Ugly Warts
Warts are caused by viruses, so they are contagious. Warts are usually benign, but are often removed for cosmetic reasons or if they are in an area where they can become irritated or painful.
Warts can appear on any part of your body with each kind of wart choosing a different part of the body to infect, as follows:
Common warts are grayish and rough bumps on your fingers or toes.
- Plantar warts make little holes on the sole of your foot.
- Flat warts, which are tiny and vary in color, choose your arms, face, or thighs.
- Filiform warts little flesh-colored flaps that grow around your mouth or nose.
- Periungual warts are painful growths affecting fingernails and toenails.
Any warts growing on or around your genitals should be brought to the attention to a medical professional immediately. In women, they can lead to potentially fatal cervical cancer.
Like moles, warts that exhibit any changes in color, shape, or size are a sign of abnormal growth that can mean skin cancer. Warts that suddenly become painful, itchy, red, or start bleeding also need medical intervention.
Skin Growths on Your Legs
Moles often occur on your legs. A mole on the back of the leg of a male is often benign; however, a mole in the same place on a female is more often malignant.
Both sexes can have benign dermatofibromas on their arms or legs, although women tend to have more than men do. Dermatofibromas are usually small and firm but are tender when touched. They are usually red or brown. Shaving will make dermatofibromas bleed if scraped.
Red Skin Growths
If you have a skin growth that changes color to red, then you need to watch it closely. It may be early skin cancer.
Cherry angiomas are small red growths that appear anywhere on your body. They are not moles, they don’t bleed, and they are rarely malignant. If a group of angiomas suddenly appears, or if one starts to bleed or becomes painful, then consult a dermatologist as they may have become cancerous.
Skin Growths on Your Neck
While it’s possible to have a mole or angioma on your neck, most skin growths on your neck are skin tags. Skin tags are little hanging flaps of flesh-colored tissue. They aren’t painful unless irritated by something rubbing against them. They are benign.
Very few humans escape one or more skin growths. Fortunately, the majority of growths are harmless. It’s important for you to conduct regular self-exams so that you are aware of any changes.
Once you observe a change, then closely monitor it. You’re well-advised to have it examined by a health care professional to treat a potential malignancy.
Adult Skin Growths
Although healthy children may have a variety of skin growths, especially birthmarks, most skin growths are the bane of adults.
That’s primarily because adults are exposed to more of the causes of growths. Aging skin is also less able to resist damage.
Skin Growths on Your Back
Your back is subject to a variety of skin growths. Like growths anywhere else on your body, those on your back are generally benign. However, there is always that small percentage that are cancerous.
Because it’s hard to self-monitor anything on your back, changes can escalate to dangerous degrees before you’re even aware they’ve begun.
Skin Growths on Your Face
Faces are continually exposed to anything that’s airborne, as well as weather. Faces are also victims of skin care products, cosmetics, and daily irritants such as close shaving. It all leaves your face vulnerable to several kinds of skin growths, especially those caused by or aggravated by sunlight.
Using a sun block is helpful, but it’s far better to shield your face from the sun and other UV rays. Stay in the shade when you can and wear a large-brimmed hat when you can’t.
Old Age Skin Growths
As your skin ages, you’ll discover flat brown spots appearing here and there. The common names are old age spots and liver spots. Physicians refer to them as lentigines. Lentigines are generally harmless.
It’s always a good idea to have lentigines examined by a dermatologist periodically. Sometimes early melanoma masquerades as a benign lentigo.
Black Growths on Your Skin
A black growth on your skin is normally not a cause for concern other than appearance. These growths are known medically as Dermatosis papulosa nigra and are commonly found on your face or neck.
If a mole turns black, then it’s probably melanoma.
Benign Skin Growths
Nearly all skin growths are benign, or noncancerous. These include:
- Seborrheic keratoses,
A change in any of these or any other growth on your skin needs to be evaluated by a medical professional as changes can be an indication of skin cancer.
Is It a Benign Mole or Melanoma?
A painful mole indicates a problem unless you have bumped or injured it in some way. It may also become itchy if you have an insect bite nearby or have scratched it for some other reason. Moles can be irritated by skin care products, cosmetics, or other environmental factors. If there isn’t an external source causing bleeding, pain, itchiness, or redness, then you need to have the mole examined by a dermatologist.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if any changes in your mole occur. Changes can signal abnormal or malignant growth that means melanoma. Melanoma responds favorably to early treatment. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening.
Benign Skin Tumors
A tumor is a swelling resulting from abnormal cell growth. Examples of benign skin tumors include angiomas, keloids, lipomas, and normal moles. All you need to do is avoid injuring or irritating the growth.
Common Skin Growths
Some skin growths are rare, but most are familiar. Moles and warts are the best known. Others include:
- Actinic keratoses
- Cutaneous horns
Actinic keratoses must be monitored as they are often precursors to skin cancer.
Skin Growth Removal
Benign skin growths are usually removed for cosmetic reasons or if your daily activities irritate or injure them. Malignant growths must be promptly removed to prevent metastasis.
Question Your Doctor Before Having Skin Growths Removed
- Is the doctor a board-certified skin specialist?
- Will the procedure be done by the doctor or under his/her supervision?
- Will the doctor take your complete medical history?
- Will you be evaluated to determine the appropriate procedure?
It’s also a good idea to ask to see before and after photos of similar procedures the doctor has performed.
Removing Skin Tags
You may want to get rid of your skin tags at home. There are a number of techniques and products available. One of the safest and easiest to use is tree tea oil.
Simply swab it on several times a day until the skin tag dies and falls off.
Protect Your Skin
Your skin will do the best job of protecting you if you also protect it. Getting too much sunshine is the biggest source of skin damage and cancers. Once damage occurs, sunshine usually worsens it.
Try also to control your stress levels, as excessive stress weakens your immune system and its ability to heal skin growths.
You can find further details of Types of moles here.