Skin tags are extremely common. In fact, they likely affect 25-50 percent of people over the age of 40. They occur as small, soft bumps located most commonly under the arms, around the neck, on the eyelids, and sometimes in-between the legs on the upper thighs. Skin tags can also be darker in color with respect to the surrounding skin.
Sometimes there are many lesions (50 or more) that can be present. Skin tags can occur in men and women; however, they seem to occur slightly more often in women.
Why should I care about skin tags?
Skin tags are most common in persons who are overweight. This is probably related to a prediabetic or diabetic state. There have been studies in the past that have suggested that skin tags might also be associated with polyps in the colon. The current thinking is that this is probably not true.
What causes skin tags?
The tendency to develop skin tags is inherited. Skin tags are harmless, and they never become cancerous or malignant. Skin tags can become irritated and sore from rubbing against jewelry and clothing. Skin tags can be quite annoying, but they are not dangerous unless they are repeatedly irritated and become infected.
How are skin tags diagnosed?
The medical term for skin tag is acrochordon. Based on their appearance, skin tags can be easily diagnosed by a physician.
How are skin tags treated?
Skin tags should be treated medically if they are painful or recurrently becoming infected. They can also be removed cosmetically if the patient finds them unsightly. Removal of skin tags is a very simple in-office procedure. They can be removed with sharp surgical scissors, or frozen using liquid nitrogen. Healing is usually complete within 7-14 days.
Can skin tags be prevented?
Once removed, skin tags do not return. However, new skin tags can develop after the existing skin tags are removed. There is no way to prevent skin tags; however, some have suggested that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight will minimize their recurrence.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.