While the majority of skin tags are simply destroyed, sometimes tissue is sent for microscopic exam by a health care specialist known as a pathologist, who will determine the exact diagnosis and determine whether an abnormality such as skin cancer is present. Irregular skin growths that are larger, bleed, or have an unusual presentation may require pathology examination to make sure there are no irregular cells or skin cancers.
Susan Besser, MD, a family medicine specialist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says that if skin tags “get large, change color, or become infected or ulcerated, you need to see your doctor. In those cases, it may not be a simple skin tag and further evaluation is needed.” By and large, Todd Minars, MD, of MINARS Dermatology in Hollywood, Florida, states, “Skin tags are harmless. If they do not bother you, then there is no need to treat them.”
Cindy Crawford has a mole, and Marilyn Monroe had one. In the Renaissance era, they were thought of as beauty enhancers, but if a mole is unsightly or bothersome, it is worth having it removed. Madonna had a mole and didn’t like the way it looked, so she had it removed. Benign moles can be removed easily with minimal risk of scarring thanks to modern techniques.
Mole removal surgery and recovery generally is simple. If the depth of the mole merits an excision, stitches are used for closure and are left in for approximately one week. If the mole is superficial, it may be shaved, and no stitch will be required. In these cases, the mole removal site will form a scab that will fall off within a week. Once the scab comes off, the underling area is usually a pink or reddish color, which may take several weeks to blend in with the surrounding skin. Regardless of the technique used for mole removal, the area should be kept clean and protected from the sun with a high SPF.
Every dermatologist has a slightly different charge for mole removal. The price is based upon the size, shape, location and complexity of the removal. For instance, a very small mole in an area that is not cosmetically sensitive can be removed simply and without sutures whereas a mole that is larger and deeper will require more work such as layered closure with sutures.
But there’s an even bigger reason you should visit an expert. After dermatologists remove a growth, they’ll look at it under a microscope. “There are things that look like skin tags but are cancerous,” says Dr. Rossi. That doesn’t mean you should freak out if you do find a skin tag. Most will just be benign, but you won’t know for sure until you’ve asked. Plus, checking a skin tag is a “good excuse” to get your doctor to check the rest of your body for skin cancer and atypical or malignant growths, says Dr. Rossi. Next, read up on these things you should never, ever do to your skin.
If you had stitches, your doctor will recommend that for a few days you keep the area as dry as possible and avoid doing any heavy exercise, Dr. Conrad says. (Both of these factors can throw a wrench into things if you’re super active—be sure to discuss that with your doctor if it worries you.) If you had a pretty quick and easy removal, you should be fine to return to any usual habits like working out the next day, but it’s still smart to run that by your doctor first.
If the skin tag is very small, the first thing Geraghty does is spray the bump with cold liquid nitrogen, a non-toxic substance. It's sprayed out of a can and is approximately -320 degrees Fahrenheit. “We direct this very cold spray of gas onto the spot for a few seconds, then we take a break and then we do a few seconds more and usually that’s enough to make the skin tag fall off within a few days,” said Geraghty.
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