My skin tags, of course — like the skin tags of millions of people — were fine. They didn’t irritate or bother me, though some doctors mentioned them getting twisted in necklace or irritated by rubbing on clothing. When that happens, or for cosmetic reasons, skin tags are easily removed. “There are several methods of removal — clip them with sharp scissors; freeze them with liquid nitrogen; or burn them off with heat,” meaning cauterize them, Dr. Besser says. (All of this should be performed by a medical professional, not at home.)
Dermatologists say nay: The tags are almost never cancerous and don’t need to be removed; in fact, they’re (almost!) always benign. And while many people opt to remove them due to discomfort or for cosmetic reasons, there is no harm in leaving them be. There are extremely rare exceptions to this rule: In one study, two patients with known basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS) were found to have multiple basal cell carcinomas that resembled ordinary skin tags. “There are rare cases where skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and even melanoma, can mimic a skin tag,” says dermatologist Avnee Shah, MD. “Going to a board-certified dermatologist assures a trained eye is examining the lesion and determining the risk of a more harmful condition masquerading as a skin tag.” To be safe, if any tag is growing, changing color, or bleeding and itching, it’s definitely time to see an expert. Find out 6 surprising signs of disease your skin can reveal.
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The causes of skin tags are not entirely clear but their presence in skin fold areas suggests that friction or frequent irritation is a potential cause. The condition appears to have a genetic component (there is a tendency for skin tags to occur in families) but other potential causes include hormonal imbalances. For example, skin tags are associated with agromegaly, the growth hormone disorder.
If you are wanting a mole removed for cosmetic reasons, it is important you first consult with a board certified dermatologist to ensure the mole is not concerning for melanoma. Once the mole has been assessed and deemed to appear benign on clinical inspection, a discussion should be had on whether a shave removal, punch biopsy or excision would have the best cosmetic outcome. With elevated moles a shave removal is usually performed which can leave a good cosmetic result in most cases. For flat moles, punch biopsy or excision is usually performed, but you should have a discussion with your dermatologist on whether the scar or mole will be more cosmetically appealing. At our office, shave removal of one mole is typically quoted at $138 to $200. Lastly, it is important the mole be sent for pathology to a board certified dermatopathologist. Pathology is charged separately by the dermaopathologist with prices ranging from $100 to $300.
Mole removal surgery and recovery generally is simple. If the depth of the mole merits an excision, stitches are used for closure and are left in for approximately one week. If the mole is superficial, it may be shaved, and no stitch will be required. In these cases, the mole removal site will form a scab that will fall off within a week. Once the scab comes off, the underling area is usually a pink or reddish color, which may take several weeks to blend in with the surrounding skin. Regardless of the technique used for mole removal, the area should be kept clean and protected from the sun with a high SPF.
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.
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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.
If the procedure is for cosmetic purposes, then it is unlikely that insurance will pay for the costs. Most cosmetic procedures are not valid for insurance coverage. If the mole is diagnosed as cancerous, insurance will most likely cover the removal. As soon as the mole is evaluated by the doctor, we will verify insurance to make certain of any coverage that may exist.
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).
Someone should have told me all this and urged me to get my blood sugar checked immediately. A standard physical a few years later (I wasn’t doing them regularly like I should have been; I was young and stupid) in fact revealed that my fasting blood sugar levels were high. The skin tags could have been a clue. A study published in March 2017 in the journal Dermatology Review found that nearly 42 percent of patients with skin tags fulfilled the criteria for metabolic disease. About 37 percent of the participants had abnormally high glucose tolerance tests.