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Skin tags are thought to be caused by collagen and blood vessels that bunch together and get caught inside thicker skin. As skin tags more commonly occur in skin creases or fold, it is believed they are mainly caused by skin rubbing against skin. However, no one knows for sure. Skin tags affect all people of any gender. However, some people are at a higher risk for developing skin tags. You may be more likely to develop skin tags if any of the following applies to you:
Skin tags are small, usually measured in millimeters, but can grow to a half-inch in length. A skin tag may start to develop without you’re even noticing. Once formed, they typically don’t get any bigger. They can show up virtually anywhere on the body, but are most often on the eyelids, the neck, the groin area, and in the armpits — basically on areas of the body with folds. You may have just one or two or many, and they might be in isolated spots or in a group with many skin tags.
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.
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.
And here’s an interesting tidbit to know: “In typical practice, every single mole that is removed is also examined under the microscope, so often we may use the terms ‘mole removal’ and ‘biopsy’ interchangeably,” Jules Lipoff, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Even if a patient is having a mole removed ostensibly for cosmetic reasons, it is prudent to evaluate the pathology regardless,” he explains. “We wouldn’t want to miss something.”
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.
While skin tags can appear just about anywhere, they're especially common in parts of your body that rub against clothing or skin. Skin tags are most common on the neck, armpits, groin, and eyelids. They also may appear on the chest and back and in skin creases. Women are likely to develop skin tags under the breasts, where the underwire of a bra may rub against the skin.
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