And speaking of cancer, it’s generally not something you need to worry about with regular old skin tags. Dr. Farber says that, “If anything changes quickly, is unusually painful, or concerns you, it’s worth getting it examined to confirm it’s a benign skin tag …. Skin tags tend to grow very slowly. Any growth that changes quickly is a reason to get examined by a dermatologist.”
Tying a String. For an elongated skin tag, your physician may tie a sterile string around the base to cut off the blood supply, causing the skin tag to die. As skin tags do have a blood supply of their own and doing this technique improperly can cause excessive bleeding, it is not recommended to do this yourself. When deciding how to remove skin tags, there are other safe and effective at-home treatments you can try.
But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore skin tags. David Lorschter, MD, founder of Curology and a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, notes there are exceptions. He says people with a genetic disorder called basal cell nevus system (BCNS) usually exhibit spots of basal cell skin cancer that look like — you guessed it — skin tags. Therefore, people with BCNS should have their skin tags biopsied and screened for cancer on a regular basis.
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.
"Neurofibromas are just little skin-colored, fleshy papules. These little bumps are very common," says Geraghty. "Some people hear 'neurofibroma' and they may think of the genetic syndrome called neurofibromatosis." Neurofibromas can be seen in neurofibromatosis (a genetic condition), but most people have neurofibromas without having the genetic syndrome neurofibromatosis. "Neurofibroma lesions can happen even without that syndrome and typically that’s the case." Like skin tags, neurofibromas are benign.
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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.
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.
Other skin conditions such as warts and moles can resemble skin tags. Since some moles may be cancerous, it’s best to have your skin tags examined by a doctor. Your dermatologist or family doctor will be able to diagnose skin tags. They’ll likely do this through a visual exam. If they have any doubt about the diagnosis, they may also perform a biopsy.