Seborrheic keratosis, which is also known as ‘Seborrheic verruca’ and ‘senile wart’, is one of the most common non-contagious, noncancerous skin growths in older adults. In fact, they are sometimes humorously referred to as the ‘barnacles of old age’. Some people get just one, but it is more common to have many anywhere on the skin. It does not become cancerous, but it can look worrisome and like skin cancer. It usually appears as a brown, black or light tan growth on the face, chest, shoulders or back. The growth has a waxy, scaly, slightly elevated appearance. Occasionally, it appears singly, but multiple growths are more common.
Seborrheic keratoses tend to start as small, rough bumps, then slowly thicken and develop a warty surface. It usually forms on the chest, back, stomach, scalp, face, neck or other parts of the body, but not on the palms and soles. Though it is not painful, Seborrheic keratoses may prove bothersome depending on their size and location. This can lead to inflammation, bleeding and, in rare cases, infection. The symptoms and signs of Seborrheic keratosis include:
- Ranges in color, usually from light tan to brown or black;
- Is round or oval shaped;
- Has a characteristic ‘pasted on’ look;
- Is flat or slightly elevated with a scaly surface’:
- Ranges in size from very small to more than 2.5 centimeters across’:
- May itch.
The exact cause of Seborrheic keratoses is not known. They are very common and generally increase in number with age. The following occurrences are known:
- Seborrheic keratoses runs in families;
- Some studies suggest that sun exposure may play a role;
- Seborrheic keratoses are not contagious.
Although anyone can develop Seborrheic keratoses, you may be more likely to develop the condition if you are older than 40 and have a family history of Seborrheic keratosis.
Sometimes the growths appear during pregnancy or after estrogen replacement therapy. Children rarely have these growths.