Skin tags or acrochordons are small pouch-like growths of skin that are painless and usually are non-cancerous, or benign. They typically are skin colored but can be darkly pigmented and frequently appear in areas of the body where skin rubs against skin such as the neck, underarms, under breasts or other body surfaces with folds.
Skin tags can be caused by heredity but often they appear in those who are overweight, probably because of increased skin friction. Elevated hormones in pregnancy can also contribute to their growth. Usually skin tags appear in those of middle age but can occur to children. Many people develop at least one skin tag but some people have 50 to 100. “According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) approximately 46% of people have skin tags,” per medicalnewstoday.com.
Should you have skin tags removed?
The main reason people have skin tags removed is for cosmetic reasons, especially if they are on the face. The likelihood of the skin tag becoming cancerous is low but many of us prefer to remove them when they are in an obvious part of the body. Another reason to remove them is when the skin tag is in an area with constant irritation such as a woman’s underarm or on a man’s face where they shave.
How skin tags are removed:
A doctor should evaluate any skin growth first to confirm that it is truly a skin tag. A skin tag may resemble a mole, especially if large, or could be an actinic keratosis lesion. Depending on how many skin tags you have and what method you are most comfortable with you can ask a doctor to remove them.
Some people report they have removed their own skin tags. However, it is imperative that tools and techniques used are scrupulously clean to prevent infection, which many people fail to do, so it is probably best let a health practitioner perform the task. Additionally, skin tags that are on the eyelid must only be removed by a doctor.
Methods to remove skin tags:
• Ligation: dental floss or suture material is tied tightly around the skin tag cutting off its blood supply. The skin tag will fall off a few days later.
• Excision: the skin tag is cut off using a scalpel or very sharp scissors with or without using an anesthetic.
• Cryosurgery: a cold probe using liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the skin tag similarly to how warts are removed.
• Cauterization: a doctor uses an electric cautery where heat is used to remove the skin tag.
People in forums report having success with various over the counter products but they often needed to use them for weeks to months before the skin tag finally fell off.
There is no evidence that removal of a skin tag will cause it to grow back or increase the likelihood that more will develop. However, some people do decide to have skin tags removed regularly because they find they keep developing more.
A doctor should also check any skin tag that changes in appearance. Occasionally a larger skin tag will develop a small blood clot inside and become black and blue which, while not dangerous, can be alarming to see. Overall, it is best to let a doctor decide what skin growths need treatment and those that can be left alone.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles