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Quiz: The Truth About Skin Tags

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Skin tags are an early sign of skin cancer.

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Skin tags are an early sign of skin cancer.

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Discovering a tiny skin tag -- or several skin tags -- on the neck or under the arm can be alarming. But there's no reason to worry. Skin tags are harmless. They're not cancerous and they don't increase the risk of any kind of cancer.

 

Skin tags are usually oval flaps of tissue that hang from the skin on a tiny stalk. They may appear alone or in a group. Typically, they're the size of a grain of rice, but they can be smaller or larger. Rarely, they can get as big as a grape. They're common, too. Almost half of all people have a skin tag at some point in their lives.

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Skin tags almost always cause which of these symptoms?

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Skin tags almost always cause which of these symptoms?

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The vast majority of skin tags have no symptoms. They don't hurt, itch, or do anything else.

In some cases, friction over time from clothing or skin can irritate a skin tag. Some people have skin tags in inconveniently located places that regularly get pinched or snagged by jewelry or clothing. If a skin tag is bothering you, a doctor can remove it.

Doctors recommend that people remove skin tags promptly, before they get worse.

Doctors recommend that people remove skin tags promptly, before they get worse.

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Because skin tags are harmless, there's usually no medical reason to remove them. They will not get bigger. If they don't bother you, you can leave them alone. People tend to get skin tags removed only if they're unsightly or annoying.

If you have a new skin tag, it's a good idea to show it to your health care provider. Some more serious skin conditions can sometimes look like skin tags. Skin tags that are multi-colored, bleed, or grow quickly may need a closer look. In rare cases, a skin tag may need a biopsy. If you notice a skin tag on your child, talk to a pediatrician.

What causes the majority of skin tags?

What causes the majority of skin tags?

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In fact, experts aren't sure exactly why skin tags form. They seem to be linked to a mix of genetics and environment. Friction -- either from rubbing against clothing or skin -- seems to be a trigger. Hormone changes may affect the risk, too.

Some people may develop just a single skin tag in their lives. Others may develop up to hundreds. For now, we really don't know why.

Which condition increases the odds of having skin tags?

Which condition increases the odds of having skin tags?

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Researchers have noticed that people with diabetes and insulin resistance are more likely to have multiple skin tags. Obesity seems to increase the risk, too. Studies have found that the heavier people are, the more skin tags they are likely to have. That may be because skin tags are more likely to pop up in folds of skin that rub against each other.

Pregnant women often develop skin tags, possibly because of hormonal changes. People with Crohn's disease may also be more likely to develop skin tags.

If you remove skin tags, they will spread.

If you remove skin tags, they will spread.

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Removing a skin tag won't make more skin tags grow. This is a misconception -- perhaps related to the (also untrue) belief that shaving hair makes it grow back faster. While it is true that you may develop more skin tags later, removing one doesn't cause new ones.

Skin tags aren't contagious either, like warts and some other skin conditions. You can't "catch" a skin tag from someone else or spread it from one part of your body to another.

What is the scientific name for skin tags?

What is the scientific name for skin tags?

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Scientists call skin tags acrochordons -- and also fibroepithelial polyps or cutaneous papillomas. People sometimes call skin tags "skin tabs" or barnacles. Technically, skin tags are considered a type of tumor, but they are not cancerous.

How do doctors remove skin tags?

How do doctors remove skin tags?

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In most cases, doctors will just clip skin tags with a pair of surgical scissors. Because skin tags are usually quite small, many people don't even need an anesthetic. The area may bleed a little afterward. Larger skin tags may need minor surgery.

Some doctors use cryotherapy to freeze the tissue. Others opt for electrical current to burn the tag. However, freezing or burning the tag may not work as well and can discolor the skin. Skin tags on the eyelid may need special treatment by an ophthalmologist.

In some cases, skin tags will fall off on their own. Even after removal, you may have new skin tags in the same places. That's because they are likely to appear in certain areas, not because they regrow.

Tight clothing could increase the risk of skin tags.

Tight clothing could increase the risk of skin tags.

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While skin tags can appear just about anywhere, they're especially common in parts of your body that rub against clothing or skin. Skin tags are most common on the neck, armpits, groin, and eyelids. They also may appear on the chest and back and in skin creases. Women are likely to develop skin tags under the breasts, where the underwire of a bra may rub against the skin.

In which age group are skin tags most common?

In which age group are skin tags most common?

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Skin tags become more common as we grow older, possibly because aging skin may somehow trigger their development. They often appear after midlife. However, skin tags can develop in people at any age. Babies can develop skin tags, especially in the folds of their skin.

Skin tags are usually the same color as the skin.

Skin tags are usually the same color as the skin.

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Most skin tags are the same color as your skin. Sometimes they are slightly darker or brown. If a skin tag has twisted and its blood supply is cut off, it may turn purple or black before it falls off. It's generally nothing to worry about.

Doctors recommend using wart-removal medication on skin tags.

Doctors recommend using wart-removal medication on skin tags.

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While some people treat skin tags with chemicals designed for wart removal, doctors say that's not a good idea. Wart removal creams and ointments may not work and may irritate the skin. They could cause other complications, too.

Which is a traditional home remedy for removing skin tags?

Which is a traditional home remedy for removing skin tags?

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People have devised all sorts of ways to remove skin tags -- some effective and some not. Regardless, it's better to have a professional examine and remove a skin tag than to treat it on your own. Do-it-yourself skin tag removal might not work or might cause unnecessary pain -- and it could create other risks.

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