Moles are extremely common skin growths, most adults have from 10 to 40 moles, and they can develop on virtually any part of the body. They may be flat or raised, and nearly color brown, black, pink, red, white, purple, blue, or flesh colored. Most moles are non-cancerous (benign), and no cause for concern. However, a mole can sometimes develop into melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.
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.
Most importantly, don’t take it upon yourself to decide that a growth is benign. At your dermatologist’s office, you’ll have a better shot at getting a solid read on what you have—and whether it’s an issue. And if you want it removed, most doctors will perform removal by freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery), cautery with an electric current (electrosurgery), or cutting with medical scissors (snip excision).
The punch biopsy has been done, and now the area has the mole in the middle but not yet removed. It will be taken out with forceps (a tweezer-like instrument) and put in a specimen bottle to be sent to the lab for analysis. It is important that every mole be sent for analysis in order to make sure that no atypical cells remain or that it isn't a precancerous type of mole. Photo courtesy Joel Schlessinger, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, lovelyskin.com.Click to view larger image.
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.
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Michelle Nguyen, a dermatologist and the director of Mohs micrographic surgery at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, tells Allure that what we call skin tags are really just benign skin lesions composed of normal skin tissue. New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner adds that skin tags, comprised of extra skin and fat, can happen to anyone. There is, however, a genetic component to them, and people whose parents had them are more likely to get them themselves.
Skin tags have been linked to diabetes. "We know that diabetics are more prone to them. More research is needed to know exactly why that is scientifically, but there’s some correlation that we observed with diabetes," says Geraghty. Though doctors don't fully understand why, the body's resistance to insulin might have something to do with it. So, if you have diabetes, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin tags.
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.
The implications of this differentiation help someone understand whether mole removal is covered by health insurance. So, cosmetic removal or removal of a mole because it is unsighly is not medically necessary and insurance will not cover this whereas insurance will cover the suspicious appearing mole. Regardless, the cost of mole removal will vary anywhere from $100 to $500 based upon size, location and shape.
If patients have a large number of skin tags or if the lesions are bothersome, then GP treatments include cryotherapy (with liquid nitrogen), surgical excision or burning off the skin tag with a Hyfrecator (an electrosurgical device). Both surgical excision and hyfrecation give instant results. With cryotherapy patients will often need a few treatments before the lesions completely clear.
Some common skin tag look-alikes include benign lesions such as seborrheic keratoses, common moles, warts, neurofibromas, and a fatty mole called nevus lipomatosus. While extremely rare, there are a few reports of skin cancers found in skin tags. Skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma may rarely mimic skin tags, as described above.
Certain endocrine syndromes, metabolic syndrome, and hormonal imbalances. Researchers have found that certain hormone-related syndromes, including polycystic ovarian syndrome and metabolic syndrome, may be related to skin tags. In fact, a small study of 110 patients with skin tags found 70 had diabetes. Additionally, researchers noted that patients with skin tags also had higher blood pressure. (4)
Freezing the skin tag. Sometimes, a dermatologist will choose to remove a skin tag through freezing it off with super cold liquid nitrogen. In this method, the dermatologist cleans the area first and applies numbing cream. Then the dermatologist will then swab or spray a small amount of liquid nitrogen on the area. The area may tingle or burn slightly. The skin tag should fall off in 10 to 14 days. (6)
"If the skin tags are a little bigger or they have more of a thicker stalk at the bottom, then I like to just do a miniature injection of lidocaine to numb the skin and just snip them right off with some very sharp sterile scissors. It only takes a second to do," says Geraghty. "Even with that method I usually do a little bit of cautery after to burn the base because these skin tags have their own blood vessel supply. Burning the base also puts a little scab on it."
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.
There is some evidence that applying a banana peel or papaya peel to a skin tag may cause it to die and fall off. It seems to be even more effective when used in combination with tea tree oil. Before bed, simply put a few drops of tea tree oil on the skin tag and then cover with a peel, securing in place with a bandage. Repeat nightly until the skin tag dies and falls off. Do not do this if you have a latex allergy or sensitivity.
Don't ignore a mole that's changing. If you don't like the prospect of having surgery, you might be tempted to let your mole be and forget about it. That's usually fine, unless you notice that the mole has changed over time. A changing mole can be a sign of the presence of cancer cells, so you should have any mole checked out by your doctor. Use the ABCDE guide to examine your mole. If you notice the following, be sure to make an appointment with a doctor:
Simply thinking about having a mole removed might send a few shivers down your spine, but sometimes it’s just necessary for your health, Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. If, for example, you have a mole that your doctor suspects or has confirmed through a biopsy is cancerous, excising the mole can help to stop any cancer from potentially growing more. But people also have moles removed for cosmetic reasons or because they’re simply annoying, like if one falls just under your bra strap and always gets irritated, Dr. Goldenberg says.
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.
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.”