Skin Tag Removal
Skin tags are common, acquired benign skin-colored growths that resemble a small, soft balloon suspended on a slender stalk. Skin tags are harmless growths that can vary in number from one to hundreds. Males and females are equally prone to developing skin tags. Obesity seems to be associated with skin tag development. Although some skin tags may fall off spontaneously, most persist once formed. The medical name for the skin tag is acrochordon. Some people call them “skin tabs.”
Early on, skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump. While most tags typically are small (2 mm-5 mm in diameter) at approximately one-third to one-half the size of a pencil eraser, some skin tags may become as large as a big grape (1 cm in diameter) or a fig (5 cm in diameter).
The precise cause of skin tags is unknown. Skin tags become more common with age and occur more frequently in people with a family history of skin tags. People with metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes are also more likely to develop skin tags.
Skin tags can occur almost anywhere on the body covered by skin. However, the two most common areas for skin tags are the neck and armpits. Other common body areas for the development of skin tags include the eyelids, upper chest (particularly under the female breasts), buttock folds, and groin folds. Tags are typically thought to occur where skin rubs against itself or clothing. Babies who are plump may also develop skin tags in areas where skin rubs against skin, like the sides of the neck. Younger children may develop tags at the upper eyelid areas, often in areas where they may rub their eyes. Older children and preteens may develop tags in the underarm area from friction and repetitive skin rubbing from sports.
Skin tags typically occur in the following characteristic locations:
- The base of the neck
- Groin folds
- Buttock folds
- Under the breasts
More than half if not all of the general population has been reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Skin tags are more common in overweight people.
Hormone elevations, such as those seen during pregnancy, may cause an increase in the formation of skin tags, as skin tags are more frequent in pregnant women. Tags are essentially harmless and do not have to be treated unless they are bothersome. Skin tags that are bothersome may be easily removed during or after pregnancy, typically by a dermatologist.
Although skin tags are generally not associated with any other diseases, there seems to be a group of obese individuals who, along with many skin tags, develop a condition called acanthosis nigricans on the skin of their neck and armpits and are predisposed to have high blood fats and sugar.
Certain structures resemble skin tags but are not. Accessory tragus and an accessory digit occasionally can be confused with skin tags. Pathological examination with a biopsy of the tissue will help distinguish skin tags if there is any question as to the diagnosis.
There is no evidence that removing a skin tag will cause more tags to grow. There is no expectation of causing skin tags to "seed" or spread by removing them. In reality, some people are simply more prone to developing skin tags and may have new growths periodically. Some individuals request periodic removal of tags at annual or even quarterly intervals.
Skin tags are a type of harmless skin growth or benign tumor. Tags are generally not cancerous (malignant) and don't become cancerous if left untreated.
There are extremely rare instances where a skin tag may become precancerous or cancerous. Skin tag-like bumps that bleed, grow, or display multiple colors like pink, brown, red, or black can require a biopsy to exclude other causes, including skin cancer.
No. There is no evidence to suggest that common skin tags are contagious.
While warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and are known to be very contagious, skin tags are not thought to be caused by HPV.
Except for the cosmetic appearance, skin tags generally cause no physical pain or discomfort. These tiny skin growths generally cause symptoms when they are repeatedly irritated (for example, by the collar or in the groin). Cosmetic reasons are the most common reason for skin tag removal. The following symptoms and signs may necessitate skin tag removal:
- it has become irritated and red from bleeding (hemorrhage) or black from twisting, and
- death of the skin tissue (necrosis).
Sometimes, they may become snagged by clothing, jewelry, pets, or seat belts, causing pain or discomfort. Overall, these are very benign growths that have no cancer (malignant) potential.
Occasionally, a tag may spontaneously fall off without any pain or discomfort. This may occur after the tag has twisted on itself at the stalk base, interrupting the blood flow to the tag.
While typical skin tags are not usually seen in the vagina or in other moist, mucosal surfaces, there are other types of benign polyps that occur in these areas. Irritation polyps or soft fibromas may occur on vaginal areas, mouth, and anal skin. Skin tags most commonly occur on dry skin like the neck, armpits, and groin folds. Genital warts, which are growths caused by a sexually transmitted virus HPV, need to be considered in the possible diagnosis for growths in genital areas.
Skin tags may infrequently occur at the external genitalia like the labia majora and labia minora. Again, sexually transmitted viral conditions like genital warts may need to be ruled out by tissue biopsy of growths in this area.
The long-term results after destruction of the individual skin tag are excellent. However, it should be understood that this does not prevent the development of new skin tags.
No. It is not possible to prevent skin tags.