“My preferred method is snip excision (cutting off the skin tag base with sterile surgical scissors) and cautery of the base to help stop bleeding and reduces the chance of regrowth,” says Dr Yip. “This method allows multiple skin tags to be removed in the one session and is usually scarless. Extensive treatment may need local anaesthetic. Other methods used by dermatologists include cryotherapy (freezing), surgical excision and ablative laser.”
Skin tags are benign skin growths that often look like small balls dangling from the skin. Medically speaking, skin tags are completely harmless. However they often pose a cosmetic concern as they can appear on areas like the eyelids, upper chest, buttocks, groin, neck, and arm pits. Skin tags can vary in number from a single tag to a cluster of hundreds.
People have used all kinds of crazy methods to try removing skin tags on their own, says Dr. Rossi. He’s heard of people tying strings around them, burning them, trying to pick them off with their fingers, and even slamming books against them. “It’s wild what people will do,” he says. Check out more terrible skin-care advice dermatologists wish you’d stop following.
With smaller nevi, the growth is cut or ‘shaved’ off flush with the skin with a scalpel or surgical scissors,while larger moles may require cutting out and stitching of wound edges. Very large nevi may call for gradual removal, in which case your physician will remove a little more at each appointment until the entire growth is removed. This is a more serious procedure, calling for a skin graft from another part of the body.
More than half if not all of the general population has been reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Skin tags are more common in overweight people.
Skin tags can happen on any part of the body but are most commonly found on the neck, under arms, under the breasts and in the groin area. Why these areas? “It is thought that they are related to chronic friction, which is why they are more common in overweight or obese persons,” said Sorensen. “Higher levels of growth factors (like during pregnancy), insulin resistance (more common in people with diabetes) and possibly a genetic component also could all play a part as well.”
Not sure if your skin lesion is actually a wart? Dr Yip explains how to tell the two apart: “A skin tag is usually soft and hangs off the skin with a narrow base. Warts are rough, scaly and raised bumps on the skin surface caused by viruses, therefore they can spread easily to other body areas and may be contagious to others.” If you can’t figure out which one has taken up residence on your body, it’s best to see your GP or dermatologist. Moles can also look similar to skin tags, so when in doubt (as some moles can be cancerous), it’s always best to get them checked by a skin professional.
Back in the 1980s, there was some speculation that skin tags were more common in people who went on to develop colon polyps or colon cancer. Subsequent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, however, found no association. That means people with skin tags had no greater chance of developing colon polyps or cancer. The authors concluded skin tags should not be used as a reason for more intensive screening.
Then, your doctor will clean the surface of your skin, usually with an alcohol pad, and inject the area with local anesthesia like lidocaine, Dr. Lipoff says. “This should be the only part with any discomfort,” he adds. “There may be a pinch and a burn.” After that, the anesthesia should kick in, and your mole plus the surrounding area should be nice and numb.
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