Cells of the skin and underlying tissue may accumulate and cause growths. Growths may be raised or flat and range in color Color Changes in the Skin Doctors use specific terms to describe various types of marks and growths on the skin. Some skin disorders and infections can cause color changes in the skin. (See also Structure and Function... read more from dark brown or black to skin-colored to red. They may be present at birth or develop later.
When the growth is controlled and the cells do not spread to other parts of the body, the skin growth (tumor) is noncancerous (benign). When the growth is uncontrolled, the tumor is cancerous (malignant), and the cells invade normal tissue and may even spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Most skin growths are noncancerous. However, people should see a doctor to determine whether a growth is skin cancer Overview of Skin Cancer Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Skin cancer is most common among people who work or play sports outside and among sunbathers. Fair-skinned people are particularly susceptible... read more . Noncancerous skin growths are often more of a cosmetic problem than anything else.
Causes of Skin Growths
Doctors do not know what causes most noncancerous skin growths. Some growths, however, are known to be caused by
Systemic (bodywide) disease (for example, xanthelasmas Xanthelasma Noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) growths can form on the eyelids. A yellow-white lump known as xanthelasma is seen under the eye. This finding may indicate elevated cholesterol... read more or xanthomas caused by excess fats in the blood)
Environmental factors (for example, moles Moles Moles are small, usually dark, skin growths that develop from pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes). Most people have some moles, but the tendency to develop atypical moles is sometimes... read more or milia Cutaneous Cysts stimulated by sunlight)
Diagnosis of Skin Growths
Examination of the skin
Doctors are often able to recognize skin growths by examining the skin.
Some growths are removed and examined under a microscope. This procedure is called a biopsy Biopsy Doctors can identify many skin disorders simply by looking at the skin. A full skin examination includes examination of the scalp, nails, and mucous membranes. Sometimes the doctor uses a hand-held... read more . Other tests may be done depending on the growth.
Treatment of Skin Growths
Treatment depends on type of growth
Some skin growths are not treated and go away on their own.
Noncancerous skin growths that are bothersome and that do not go away on their own may be removed. Some growths are removed with an electric needle or scalpel. Other growths are removed with lasers or by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.