Non-cancerous lesions grow more common with age.

Written by Keith Schumann, M.D.

Growing older can bring seborrheic keratoses, sometimes called wisdom spots or Seb Ks. These growths are nasty and annoying, but benign. They are the most common non-cancerous growth to develop in association with aging skin.
These barnacles of time can be alarming due to their irregular appearance. Seb Ks may easily be confused with warts and moles, so a medical evaluation is often needed to confirm their identity. In some cases the dermatologist must rule out skin cancer before making a diagnosis.

Seb Ks can appear as brown, flesh-colored, or even white lesions that are rough and warty. They appear waxy, as if they are pasted onto the skin. Favorite locations include the trunk and extremities; but the face, scalp, neck and other areas may be affected. Size commonly ranges from that of a pea to as large as a silver dollar. Thankfully, lesions on the face tend to remain small and stop growing when they reach maturity. However, even the smallest Seb Ks can sometimes cause itch and irritation and, of course, they present a cosmetic nuisance.

Other than genetic predisposition and aging there are no other known causes of Seb Ks. They are not caused by exposure to sunlight and are not contagious.
Seb Ks occur with age, often starting in our 30s and increasing in number as we grow older. They typically appear one at a time and, unless they develop suddenly, they do not indicate a serious health problem. Removal may be recommended if Seb Ks become large, irritated, itchy, or bleed easily.

Dermatologists have several simple and effective techniques to permanently remove Seb Ks. Many people are tempted into “fingernail surgery,” trying to pick the growths off themselves. This is not recommended, nor satisfying, as the growths almost always reappear in the same place. Unfortunately, there is no cream, ointment or other medications capable of curing or preventing Seb Ks.
Wisdom spots require just that—wisdom to know when to see a doctor, when to have them removed, and when to let them be. See a dermatologist or your primary care doctor if you are unsure of any new skin growth.

Refer to for more skin care information.

Keith W. Schumann, M.D., is the founder of Ageless Dermatology & Laser Center. He is a board-certified dermatologist with advanced training in lasers.

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