What is a skin tag?
Skin tags are benign tumors that form on the skin usually in the underarm, groin or neck area, but can develop anywhere. Skin tags look like knobs of skin which are usually the size of a grain of rice although they can in rare occurances become the size of a golf ball. They usually develop around middle age. They usually don’t cause any discomfort other than the visual, unless it is rubbing against clothing or jewelry.
Sebaceous gland hyperplasia presents itself as small yellow-coloured bumps usually located on the face but can occur anywhere. They occur due to an overgrowth of oil producing glands. They can vary greatly in size from a few millimetres in diameter to several centimetres. Sometimes a thick white secretion can be squeezed from the lesion. If the gland becomes infected it becomes red and irritated. These changes are malignant and are not indicative of cancer, although they can be disruptive to look at and cause repetitive infection and discomfort.
Age spots, sometimes called liver spots, are the most common type of change in the skin. Although the cause of age spots in unknown, they seem to develop on older individuals in areas which have been exposed to high levels of sun. Often a few spots will develop at the same time especially on the face and neck. The spots are light brown to brown and have clear edges. Their texture varies and they can be either coarse like the surface of a wart or soft to the touch. In certain cases they can peel or flake or even bleed, especially if they are scratched and rubbed consistently. It is not uncommon for people to confuse them with cancerous spots. Age spots are however not cancerous skin irregularities and can be easily removed without leaving visible scarring.
Skin tags of this sort can be easily and swiftly removed with localised anaesthetic. The procedure usually takes only a few minutes. Often there is no suturing necessary and therefore no or minimal scarring.
All surgery leaves some sort of scarring and scarring is usually permanent. When incisions are made along natural creases in the skin, scars become less noticeable in time. When people decide to have facial surgery it is important to think carefully about expectations and discuss them openly with the surgeon. Extreme care must be taken when deciding on facial surgery because of the risk of granulation of the scars, which is a hereditary risk. It is important to ask and review carefully these risks as they are difficult to treat if they come up.
I have a lump under the surface of my skin which I have been told is a lipoma. Will having this removed leave scars?
Lipomas on the skin are very common. They vary in size from the equivalent of a bean to the size of your hand. Sometimes sonar scanning is required before removing a large lipoma, especially if its roots are deep within the skin. Usually, however, a plastic surgeon can make an accurate diagnosis in the office.
My entire life, I’ve spent a lot of time in the sun and I was sunburned several times severely as a child. Am I at risk for skin cancer?
Some types of skin cancer are more common in people that have had high levels of sun exposure and spent a lot of time tanning. If you become aware of changes to your skin that you think may be cancerous, you should contact your doctor immediately to have it diagnosed. You should also have someone take a look at your back for any other irregularities. Do not procrastinate if you see changes to your skin or if spots develop that do not seem to be disappearing.
I have had a dark birthmark for some time now and now it seems to be getting larger. Do I need to have it removed?
Many of us have a number of small discolorations or spots that can be defined as birth marks. However, strictly speaking a birthmark has been there since birth and gets darker with sun exposure and the collection of pigment. They are usually completely harmless. When the shape and colour of a birthmark alters, it could indicate a malignant growth. The appropriate course of action in such cases is usually to contact a surgeon in order to have the growth removed and biopsied.