Skin tags are extremely common small tissue growths on the skin’s surface. Up to half of all people may get one at more at some point in their lifetime. Most often, skin tags are harmless, painless, and don’t grow or change. While you can find them all over your body, skin tags often form on areas of the body subject to rubbing. You are most likely to find them on the neck, armpits, trunk and in body folds. (1)
Except for the cosmetic appearance, skin tags generally cause no physical pain or discomfort. These tiny skin growths generally cause symptoms when they are repeatedly irritated (for example, by the collar or in the groin). Cosmetic reasons are the most common reason for skin tag removal. The following symptoms and signs may necessitate skin tag removal:
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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.
Skin tags are thought to occur from skin rubbing up against skin, since they are so often found in skin creases and folds. Studies have shown existence of low-risk HPV 6 and 11 in skin tags, hinting at a possible role in its pathogenesis. Acrochorda have been reported to have a prevalence of 46% in the general population. A causal genetic component is thought to exist. They also are more common in women than in men. Acrochorda were once thought to be associated with colorectal polyps, but studies have shown no such connection exists. Rarely, they can be associated with the Birt–Hogg–Dubé syndrome, acromegaly, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
While it is true that skin tags often show up in the armpit or neck creases, the skin-on-skin friction is not what’s to blame. Rather, it’s the creases and skin folds that produce a friendly environment for a virus that may cause some skin tags. According to Ben Johnson, MD, founder of holistic beauty brand Osmosis Skincare, “Viruses are much more commonly spread through contact than people realize, but they don’t find the skin an easy place to survive. Creases improve their chances, and on rare occasions, one makes it into the follicle and infects local skin DNA to create skin tags.”
Skin tags are common, acquired benign skin growths that resemble a small, soft balloon suspended on a slender stalk. Skin tags are harmless growths that can vary in number from one to hundreds. Males and females are equally prone to developing skin tags. Obesity seems to be associated with skin tag development. Although some skin tags may fall off spontaneously, most persist once formed. The medical name for skin tag is acrochordon. Some people call them "skin tabs."
Repetitive friction and wearing tight clothes may contribute to skin tags in people who are overweight. According to a medical paper written by dermatologists in Spain, an obese patient, whose job required repeating lifting of her arms, developed a pattern of skin tags along her bra straps from the constant friction. Avoiding tight clothing if you are overweight is suggested.
Determine whether a biopsy is needed. At your appointment, the doctor will examine your mole's shape, borders, size, color, and surface texture, to see whether it appears to be cancerous. If the mole exhibits common symptoms of melanoma or another type of skin cancer, the doctor will order a biopsy to test whether cancer cells are present. If it doesn't, the doctor will be able to go ahead and remove the mole. The sample will often be sent for analysis even if the mole does not appear to be cancerous.
And here’s an interesting tidbit to know: “In typical practice, every single mole that is removed is also examined under the microscope, so often we may use the terms ‘mole removal’ and ‘biopsy’ interchangeably,” Jules Lipoff, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Even if a patient is having a mole removed ostensibly for cosmetic reasons, it is prudent to evaluate the pathology regardless,” he explains. “We wouldn’t want to miss something.”
One final cost is pathology to determine if the mole is cancerous or precancerous. This isn't usually necessary if the mole has been there a very long time. If the mole is new, has changed recently, or has other suspicious features like bleeding, your health insurance should cover the cost of removal and pathology. If you don't have insurance or if you prefer to have a mole sent even when it's being removed for purely cosmetic reasons, then pathology will cost an additional $125-200.