Skin tags are benign (non-cancerous) brown or flesh-colored skin growths that are most commonly located in skin folds or creases such as the neck, armpit, groin, or eyelids. Skin tags are also known as acrochordons, and large skin tags are referred to as fibroepithelial polyps. They are considered benign, meaning they do not transform into skin cancer. When traumatized, they often bleed because of a central blood vessel that runs through the middle of the skin growth. When irritated by rubbing or jewelry, they may become crusted or painful.
The cause of skin tags is thought to be friction. Conditions that may be correlated with the development of skin tags include the following:
- Obesity or increased leptin levels
- Diabetes mellitus or elevated insulin levels or glucose levels
- Acanthosis nigricans
- Acromegaly (excess growth hormone condition)
- Birt-Hogg-Dubay syndrome
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Rarely, more serious skin conditions may mimic the appearance of a skin tag. Professional evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist can distinguish a skin tag from a skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma or melanoma. If a lesion is suspicious, it may be biopsied and submitted for pathologic evaluation by a dermatopathologist.
Treatment is not necessary and is often not covered by insurance, but removal for cosmetic purposes can be accomplished painlessly and with little to no downtime. At Pure Dermatology, we take patient comfort very seriously and thus use numbing medication prior to skin tag removal.
Skin tags may be removed through a variety of means. Skin tag removal should only be performed after sterile preparation of the skin. The tags may then be removed by snip excision, scissor removal, electrodessication (using a small electric needle to burn off the skin tags), and cryosurgery (freezing).
For small skin tags, there is usually no noticeable downtime except a red dot in the area for a few days. For larger skin tags, a small scab may be present in the area of removal for several days after treatment and a bandage may be necessary to prevent friction.
Treated skin tags do not recur but an individual predisposed to skin tag formation may develop more in the future.