Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition, which often resembles a wart-like, pre-cancerous skin growth (actinic keratosis) or skin cancer. Fortunately, despite its appearance seborrheic keratosis is harmless.
In most cases, we will be able to determine if your skin growth is a seborrheic keratosis simply by looking at your skin. If the growth resembles skin cancer, we may shave off the growth with a blade or scrape it off. Such a biopsy will allow us to look for skin cancer cells under a microscope and is the most efficient way to determine beyond a reasonable doubt if the growth is skin cancer. Because seborrheic keratosis is harmless, they most often do not need treatment. However, we may require suggestion removal of seborrheic keratosis if it: resembles skin cancer, gets snagged on clothing or jewelry, quickly painful and irritating, and is cosmetically unappealing.
We may perform one of two treatments:
Cryosurgery: We apply liquid nitrogen to the growth with a cotton swab or spray gun; this will destroy the growth. The seborrheic keratosis tends to fall off within days. Sometimes a blister forms under the seborrheic keratosis and dries into a scab-like crust. Fortunately, the crust will fall off in a matter of days.
Electrosurgery and Curettage: Electrocautery involves numbing the growth with a local anesthetic then utilizing an electric current to destroy the growth. Next, a curette (i.e., scoop-shaped surgical instrument) is used to scrape off the treated growth; this is the curettage. Although there may be a small trace of bleeding, generally patients will not require stitches.
After removal of a seborrheic keratosis, the skin may be lighter than the surrounding skin. The lighter skin will usually fade with time but can at times be permanent. Most removed seborrheic keratoses do not return. But a new one may occur elsewhere.