Skin Tags (Acrochordon)
What Is It?
A skin tag is a soft, skin-colored growth that hangs from the surface of the skin on a thin piece of tissue called a stalk. Its medical name is acrochordon. Skin tags are not skin cancer and cannot turn into skin cancer.
Skin tags typically appear as people age. They are quite common in people 60 and older. They are more common in women, and a tendency to develop them may run in families. Skin tags also develop commonly following pregnancy.
They appear most often in skin folds of the neck, armpits, torso, beneath the breasts or in the genital region. They can become an irritation if they occur in an area where clothing or jewelry rubs against them, and they may be unsightly.
Skin tags at first may appear as tiny soft bumps on the skin. Over time, they grow into a flesh-colored piece of skin attached to the skin surface by a stalk. It’s easy to move or wiggle skins tags back and forth. They are painless, although they can become irritated if they are rubbed a lot.
If a skin tag is twisted on its stalk, a blood clot can develop within it and the skin tag may become painful.
Doctors can recognize skin tags easily by examining the skin. For skin tags with a characteristic appearance (soft, easily moveable, flesh-colored or slightly darker and usually attached to the skin surface by a stalk), a biopsy is unnecessary. If you notice a suspected skin tag doesn’t move, is a different color than surrounding skin, is multicolored, or has raw or bleeding areas, ask your doctor to examine it.
Skin tags are permanent growths unless you have them removed. Many people develop multiple skin tags.
There is no known way to prevent skin tags.
Doctors remove skin tags with sharp scissors, a sharp blade or, less commonly, by freezing or burning them off at the stalk. Bleeding can be stopped with a chemical (aluminum chloride) or electric (cauterizing) treatment.
Because skin tags are only of cosmetic concern, most health insurance plans will not pay for their removal.
When To Call A Professional
Call your doctor if you notice that a suspected skin tag changes color or becomes painful.
The outlook for people with skin tags is excellent. They are not cancerous or precancerous growths, and they can be easily removed if desired.
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.