Skin tags, medically termed as acrochordons or fibroepithelial polyps (FEP), are just a tiny benign bit of flesh that is typically connected to the underlying skin by a thin stalk. Yeah, gross. On the exterior, they look like minuscule bits of “hanging” skin that are typically taller than wide. These growths are seen in approximately half of all people and can form for a variety of reasons. However, they turn up more often during pregnancy, in diabetics, obese individuals, and those that have a family history of skin tags. They are also more common as you age—and men and women suffer them at about the same rate.
It is important to stress that any changes in your skin, including moles and skin tags, should be looked at by your physician or dermatologist to rule out skin cancer including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Routinely check your skin for any changes, and photograph areas of concern so you can keep track of any variations easily.
Doctors do not recommend that you snip off you skin tag yourself. "I see patients come into my office and you know they’re in pain because they've tried to clip the skin tags off themselves," says Geraghty. "Maybe part of it was left behind so it’s just having a hard time healing, or they’ve tried to do that trick where they try to tie dental floss or thread around it to strangulate the skin tag and end up killing part of the tissue but not the other, which is still hanging on. These patients will end up with a sore, red, inflamed, tender bump."
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Your skin is the heaviest organ in the body and takes up about 16 percent of your total weight.1 It serves many purposes, such as protecting your internal organs from microbes and environmental heat, as well as regulating body temperature.2 But due to its size and breadth, there's a chance that growths can unexpectedly form. One common example found among adults is skin tags.
Many people who develop skin tags simply choose to leave them alone. If, however, you find a skin tag unsightly or find that it’s becoming irritated by shaving or rubbing on clothing or jewelry, you can have it removed by a doctor. The two most common methods are cryotherapy, in which the tag is taken off using a freezing solution, or cauterization, in which the tag is burned off. There are also home kits available (similar to wart removal kits), but they may only be appropriate for certain small tags. Consult your healthcare provider for advice, especially if the tag is large (in which case a biopsy may be taken), or it is near your eye.
I went on my way after my doctor’s appointment, relieved. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. Many doctors I've spoken to say people with obesity are more likely to get skin tags due to the increase in skin friction. I probably weighed 120 pounds (lbs) booted out in snow gear. But there are other risk factors for skin tags — factors that, if you’re suffering from them, may be worth investigating.
While the unpredictability of skin tags might give off the impression that they’re uncontrollable, this isn’t entirely true. Laura Korb Ferris, MD, says that skin tags are more common in overweight or obese people, and are also associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. As such, maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce skin tag trouble. Basically, think of tags as a barometer of your health. If you live a poor lifestyle, eat a lot of saturated fats, consume too much sugar, and maintain an unhealthy BMI, your body could be alerting you there’s a problem.
Skin tags, formally known as acrochordons, are small pieces of flesh that protrude from your skin. They’re attached through a stem or stalk. Skin tags are most commonly found in folds of skin around your neck, armpits, and groin area, and usually appear in people of middle age. While these growths aren’t painful, daily movement can produce friction, which may irritate them.
Moles can be removed a number of ways, most commonly by numbing the area and then shaving them off or cutting them out and closing the area with stiches. The method of removal is determined by a number of factors including appearance, size, location, and type of mole. For example, if a mole is just bothersome because it is raised, shaving it flat is usually the best approach. Similarly, if a mole is abnormal appearing and small, it also is typically shaved. Conversely, moles that are growing irritated hairs are usually best treated with complete removal and closure with stiches. Moles can grow back after shaving (and occasionally even after removing and closing area with stiches).
The best method for mole removal depends on different characteristics of the mole including size, shape, and color. With most moles (pigmented areas) we are either born with them, or they appear over time as we exose our skin to the sun. For flat moles, skin tags, or protruding moles that have been relatively stable since birth (with no rapid growing, shape changing, etc.) treatment with laser or excision can remove them easily. Other moles that have changed in color or contour should be removed for biopsy to determine if they are associated with skin cancer.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in skin cells called melanocytes and affects more than 53,600 people in the United States each year. These melanocytes can grow together to form benign moles which, after a change in size, shape, or color can be a sign of melanoma. Caused by sun exposure, early detection becomes extremely important to avoid a spread to other areas of the body. Diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy of the abnormal skin and treatment depends on the extent and characteristics of the patient. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to various organs.
While they can turn up anywhere, skin tags tend to appear where there is frequent friction, such as the neck, breasts, groin, and underarms. Ultimately, there is no evidence that skin tags will lead to any serious skin condition: They’re mostly an aesthetic annoyance. Regardless, most dermatologists encourage you to have them checked out—and removed, if you want. The only link to danger is from one study from the Indian Journal of Dermatology, which suggested that skin tags may be a sign of underlying heart issues. You could get your heart checked out, but the one research connection shouldn’t concern anyone too much.
Some other studies have suggested that skin tags may be associated with thyroid problems. An article published in December 2016 in the Journal of Evolutionary Medicine found that about 11 percent of people with thyroid issues had achrocordons, or skin tags. These patients tended to have a higher number of thyroid nodules and thyroid volume. This, they hypothesize, is because “skin tags and thyroid changes may be associated with high levels of circulating insulin.”