Skin Changes - Topic Overview
Some common skin growths
Moles. Most people have
between 10 and 40 moles. You may continue to form new moles until you are in
your 40s. Moles may change over time. They can gradually get bigger, develop a
hair, become more raised, get lighter in color, fade away, or fall
. These are harmless growths that
appear in the skin folds on the neck, under the arms, under the breasts, or in
the groin. They begin as small fleshy brown spots and may grow a small stalk.
Skin tags never turn into skin cancer.
Seborrheic keratoses, which are harmless skin growths that are found most often on the
chest or back; occasionally on the scalp, face, or neck; and less commonly
below the waist. They begin as slightly raised tan spots that develop a crusty
appearance like that of a wart. Seborrheic keratoses never turn into skin
cancer. For more information, see the topic
Treatment of a skin change depends on what is causing the skin
change and what other symptoms you are having. Moles, skin tags, and other
growths can be removed if they become irritated, bleed, or cause
While most skin changes are normal and
occur with aging, some may be caused by cancer.
Skin cancer may start as a growth or mole, a
change in a growth or mole, a sore that does not heal,
or irritation of the skin. It is the most common form of cancer in North
Skin cancer destroys skin cells and tissues and can
spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The three most common types of
skin cancer are
basal cell cancer,
squamous cell cancer, and
melanoma. See a picture of the
ABCDEs of melanoma.
Causes of skin cancer include:
- Overexposure to the sun, such as a severe,
blistering sunburn during childhood.
- Years of overexposure to the
sun as an adult.
- The use of tanning beds or sunlamps. UV rays from
a tanning bed may actually be more harmful than the sun because they are more
- Repeated exposure to X-rays, chemicals, and radioactive
Radiation treatments for conditions such as
Kaposi's sarcoma is a serious form of
skin cancer. It is often found in people who have an
impaired immune system, such as people with
AIDS. Blue-red raised bumps (nodules) may appear on
the face, arms, and trunk and inside the mouth.
Early detection and
treatment of skin cancer can help prevent problems. Treatment depends on the
type and location of the growth and how advanced it is when it is diagnosed.
Surgery to remove the growth will help determine what treatment will be needed.
For more information, see the topics
Skin Cancer, Melanoma and
Skin Cancer, Nonmelanoma.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.