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RMC Bayonet Point

Seborrheic Keratosis


Seborrheic keratosis is a type of non-cancerous growth on the top layer of skin. These growths may look like warts.

Seborrheic keratoses are not contagious, do not spread, or do not turn into cancerous tumors. In most cases, treatment is not required.


The direct cause of seborrheic keratosis is unknown, but it may be linked to genetics.

Risk Factors

Seborrheic keratosis is more common in people aged 40 years and older and in those with a family history.


Seborrheic keratosis are thick growths that may:

  • Look yellow, tan, brown, white, or black
  • Be waxy or look like warts
  • Be round, flat, or oval in shape
  • Be itchy when irritated by clothing or jewelry
  • Appear anywhere on the skin

Some people have one lesion, but it is more common to have many.

It may be hard to detect the difference between seborrheic keratosis and melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer. It is important to see your doctor anytime new or changing skin lesions are noticed.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor can usually make a diagnosis upon examination of the skin growth. You may need further testing, such as a skin biopsy, to rule out other skin conditions.

Punch Biopsy of the Skin
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Seborrheic keratoses do not pose a threat to your health. The best course of action may be to leave them alone. If they itch or become irritated, or if you feel they affect your appearance, they can be removed.

Treatment options include:


If you have irritated seborrheic keratoses, your doctor may recommend topical corticosteroids.


In some cases, you and your doctor may decide to remove the seborrheic keratoses. Surgical options include:

  • Freezing the growth, which falls off a few days later
  • Removal with a razor or scalpel
  • Laser surgery to burn the growth off


There are no current guidelines to prevent seborrheic keratosis.

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Dermatology

  • Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

  • Canadian Dermatology Association

  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada

  • Common benign skin lesions. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed September 2, 2015.

  • Seborrheic keratosis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed September 2, 2015.

  • Seborrheic keratosis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed September 2, 2015.