A skin tag (acrochordon) is a common, possibly inherited condition that manifests as small, flesh-colored growths on a thin stalk. Skin tags are benign lesions that can sometimes become irritated or traumatized.
Skin tags are not present at birth and their frequency increases with age. Skin tags can be observed in about 25% of adults. Studies have shown a genetic predisposition to the development of skin tags. Therefore, skin tags can run in families.
Who’s At Risk
Skin tags are very common, and their incidence increases with age. Seen more often in people with growth hormone excess (acromegaly), skin tags are sometimes associated with acanthosis nigricans, a condition in which areas of skin may become thickened and velvety.
Skin tags are believed to develop due to friction between adjacent areas of skin or between clothing and skin. Common sites for skin tags include the following:
- The underarms
- Upper chest (particularly beneath the breasts in women)
- Groin folds
Because of the increased skin-to-skin contact and friction, skin tags are more common in overweight orobese people. Although skin tags can sometimes be seen in children, they tend to increase with age and are most common in middle-aged and older individuals.
Studies have suggested an inherited susceptibility to the development of skin tags. In people with Crohn’s disease, skin tags around the anal opening (perianal skin tags) are common. The hormonal changes of pregnancy can also stimulate the growth of skin tags, particularly during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Skin tags are not cancers. Reports of skin cancers arising in skin tags are extremely rare.
Skin Tags Symptoms
Skin tags are typically flesh-colored or may appear brown in light-skinned individuals. They may be smooth or wrinkled and range in size from very tiny (1 mm) to approximately the size of a grape. Although it is usually possible to recognize a stalk that attaches the skin tag to the underlying skin, very small skin tags may appear as raised bumps on the skin.
If a skin tag is twisted on its blood supply it may turn red or black. Skin tags may bleed if caught on clothing or are otherwise torn. Skin tags are not typically painful and are not associated with any particular skin conditions or symptoms. However, people who are prone to diabetes and have a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans often have associated skin tags.
When to Seek Medical Care
Skin tags are benign in nature, and, therefore, no treatment is necessary. However, you should seek evaluation from a primary care provider or dermatologist if you are either uncertain of the diagnosis or if the skin tags become irritated or painful.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Skin tags may be treated by:
- Snipping with scissors.
- Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery).
- Destroying it with an instrument providing a small of amount of electrical current (electrodesiccation).