Recently I had a middle-aged male patient come to me worried that he had cancer-causing growths under his arms and on his neck. Turns out all he had were harmless skin tags.
A skin tag is a benign growth of skin cells. They tend to form in areas where the skin creases such as your neck, breasts, armpits, and groin area. Although close to half the population has skin tags, they’re more common among certain groups: women, particularly during pregnancy, the elderly, and overweight or obese individuals. Skin tags tend to run in families, so if your grandmother and mother has them, chances are good you will too.
A typical skin tag (or acrochordon) is small, oval or round, and hangs off the skin. Skin tags are not dangerous, and they are not a sign of early skin cancer. Indeed, since they’re benign, there’s is no medical need to remove them.
However, if you don’t like the way skin tags look, or find them bothersome, then you can have them removed by your dermatologist. He or she can remove a skin tag by snipping it off with a scalpel or scissors, by freezing it off with cryosurgery, or by burning it off with electrosurgery (using an electric current). The entire procedure takes only a few minutes, is virtually painless, and typically heals with 24 hours.
Photo credit: FCC, Kevin Dooley