Seborrheic keratosis is a condition that causes wart-like growths on the skin. The growths are noncancerous (benign).
A seborrheic keratosis is a benign form of skin tumor. The cause is unknown.
The condition commonly appears after age 40. It tends to run in families.
Symptoms of seborrheic keratosis are skin growths that:
- Are located on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas, except the lips, palms, and soles
- Are painless, but may become irritated and itchy
- Are most often tan, brown, or black
- Have a slightly raised, flat surface
- May have a rough texture (like a wart)
- Often have a waxy surface
- Are round or oval
- May look like a piece of bee's wax that has been "pasted-on" the skin
- Often appear in clusters
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will look at the growths to determine if you have the condition. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Removing the growths is simple and generally does not cause scars. You may have patches of lighter skin where growths on the torso have been removed.
Growths usually do not return after they are removed. You may develop more growths in the future if you are prone to the condition.
These complications may occur:
- Irritation, bleeding, or discomfort of growths
- Mistake in diagnosis (growths may look like skin cancer tumors)
- Distress due to physical appearance
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have symptoms of seborrheic keratosis.
Also call if you have new symptoms, such as:
- A change in the appearance of the skin growth
- New growths
- A growth that looks like seborrheic keratosis, but occurs by itself or has ragged borders and irregular color. Your provider will need to examine it for skin cancer.
Benign skin tumors - keratosis; Keratosis - seborrheic; Senile keratosis; Senile verruca
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Marks JG, Miller JJ. Epidermal growths. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 5.
Requena L, Requena C, Cockerell CJ. Benign epidermal tumors and proliferations. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 109.
Review Date 11/10/2020
Updated by: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.