Every so often, we’ll spot something on our skin that looks unfamiliar. Sometimes, it’s a new bruise (how the heck did I get that?), and other times, it’s a skin condition that’s flaring up. For some of us, though, these new spots are a little more serious. That new mark, bump, or splotch on your skin might just be a skin tumor. Skin tumors are abnormal growths of tissue on the skin that may be harmless.
So, maybe you aren’t familiar with skin tumors. Sure, we’ve all heard of eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and the like. But, we’re here for you! We’re breaking down everything you need to know about skin tumors, from causes and types to effective treatment plans.
What Causes Skin Tumors?
Here comes the anticlimactic part. No one really knows the exact cause because there isn’t just one. Some skin tumors may be hereditary; your genes might cause you to be more likely to develop one. Others might be caused by a viral infection. What we do know is that skin tumors are most common in older adults, since the skin changes as the body ages. However, skin tumors can affect people of any age. The key is knowing the severity of each type so you know if your derm needs to get involved.
Benign Skin Tumors
Despite sounding like a major issue, some skin tumors aren’t anything to worry about. They usually clear up with the help of OTC remedies or simple prescriptions. Here are the most common types of benign skin tumors.
Warts are a kind of skin tumor that’s caused by a virus. This virus infects the top layer of the skin, causing a small growth right on the surface. There are several different kinds of warts you should keep an eye out for.
- Common Warts: small, grainy skin growths that most often appear on the hands and fingers and are rough to the touch
- Flat Warts: smooth, flat-topped, flesh-colored bumps on the skin that are usually the size of a pinhead and found on the face or legs
- Plantar Warts: skin tumors that are found on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of the feet
- Periungual Warts: warts that cluster around the fingernails or toenails and look like thickened, cauliflower-esque patches
- Filiform Warts: skin tumors that have long, narrow projections that protrude from the skin and are most commonly found on around the lips and eyes
- Genital Warts: warts that appear in the genital area that are most often the result of a sexually transmitted infection
While warts come and go spontaneously, they may take years to disappear, so it might be best to help them along.
There are a few different ways to treat warts. First, you can try a salicylic acid preparation, which is designed to dissolve keratin. Keratin is a skin protein that makes up most of the wart and the surrounding area. Dissolve it, and your wart is gone! There are also non-prescription freezing methods. These OTC solutions are not as effective as the ones that dermatologists use, but they may still be effective depending on the severity of your wart. Finally, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hack it with some duct tape. Or, any kind of nonporous tape. Simply apply the tape to the wart, allow the wart to be covered by the tape at all times, and change the tape frequently.
In some cases, your derm may also have to get involved. Maybe your wart didn’t respond to OTC freezing methods. Dermatologists typically use liquid nitrogen in their wart-freezing procedures. Liquid nitrogen reaches much lower temperatures than non-prescription solutions, so it is far more effective.
Your derm may also choose to burn the wart with an electrical needle, inject immune stimulators or chemotherapeutic agents, or surgically remove it. Again, it really depends on the severity of the wart, so we recommend getting it checked out.
Like other skin tumors, seborrheic keratoses look worse than they are. They’re often mistaken for warts or cancerous moles, but they’re harmless! They can be white or black, but most range from tan to brown. Middle-aged and older people usually get growths like these, and seborrheic keratoses are most often found on the chest or back. Most people will develop several at a time, but you can rest assured they aren’t contagious.
Luckily, most seborrheic keratoses do not require treatment. However, your dermatologist may decide to remove it if it looks like skin cancer or gets caught on your clothing. The removal process is much like that of warts. Derms will either freeze them off or remove them surgically.
Out of all benign skin tumors, these are the ones you need to worry about the least. Nevi are moles and birthmarks that appear on the skin either alone or in groups. Most nevi are flesh-colored and may darken after sun exposure or during pregnancy. Like other kinds of skin tumors, there are several different kinds of nevi to know.
- Pigmented Nevi: the moles that everyone’s familiar with
- Congenital Nevi: moles or birthmarks that are present right from birth and have a slightly higher risk of becoming cancerous depending on their size
- Compound Nevus: a slightly raised growth with consistent borders and pigment
- Spitz Nevus: an uncommon, dome-shaped skin tumor that occurs suddenly in people of all ages
- Epidermal Nevus: a patch, plaque, or nodule that appears raised off the skin and can be found all around the body
The only time you’ll have to worry about nevi is if they change appearance. If they change in color, size, or shape over time, your derm might want to perform a biopsy.
More common in women than men, dermatofibromas are nodules that are most often found on the lower legs. Dermatofibromas are usually a pink or brown color. While they don’t cause any symptoms, they may be painful and itchy from time to time.
Last on our list of benign skin tumors are lipomas. Lipomas are soft, rubbery bulges that occur when a layer of fat begins to grow in your body’s soft tissue. In fact, lipomas are actually the most common tumor that forms beneath the skin. Most people find them on the upper body, arms, or thighs. Lipomas also tend to run in families and appear most often after an injury. Doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes them either.
More often than not, lipomas are harmless. However, if you notice an unusual growth or swelling on your body, especially after an injury, it’s best to let your doctor know. Plus, lipomas may form in your internal organs. If you feel any pain, keep a medical profession in the loop!
How Do I Know if My Skin Tumor isn’t Benign?
If you’ve gotten this far, you might think that “skin tumors” might be too harsh of a term for the growths we’ve described above. But, there are some skin tumors that you do have to watch for. Let’s discuss how to tell if your skin tumor is in fact something more.
Change in Color or Pigment
We mentioned before that some skin tumors may darken in color when exposed to the sun. They may also darken if they become malignant. Problematic spots are usually not the same color all over. For example, some areas of the mole may be brown, and other areas might be a deep black. Malignant skin tumors may even have patches of pink, blue, or red.
Change in Shape
Skin tumors can be potentially dangerous if their shape changes over time. Maybe your nevus used to be symmetrical, but now, the two halves don’t match up. Also, consider the border. Malignant skin tumors don’t have uniform edges. If the border of your mole is notched, blurred, irregular, or ragged, that’s cause for concern.
Change in Size
Most benign skin tumors are small in diameter, usually less than the size of an eraser on a pencil. If it’s larger than that, and continues to grow, give your dermatologist a call.
A Few More Things to Look Out For
As with all skin conditions, everyone’s skin is different, so symptoms will not display the same way for all of us. Sores that don’t heal, changes in sensation, and changes in the texture of the skin tumor are all causes for alarm. Maybe pigment is spreading from beyond the mole’s borders or you’re experiencing swelling next to the skin tumor. These are all things to keep in mind and put on the list to ask your derm.
So, Do I Need to See My Doctor?
Most of the time, no treatment is required, as long as your skin tumor is considered benign. If you think yours is malignant, then you know what we’re going to say. Self-diagnosing is easy, thanks to the internet, but nothing’s going to be as accurate as getting a doctor’s opinion. We always recommend keeping a dermatologist in the loop about whatever’s happening with your skin.
Can Sebamed Help Me?
While our products can’t help treat skin tumors, you can always rely on our products to give your skin the love it needs. Because each product is pH-balanced, Sebamed works on even the most sensitive of skins. Say you just got a wart frozen off or a mole removed. Your skin’s not going to be the most happy.
That’s where we come in. Many of our products contain calendula extract and camellia extract, which promote wound healing. So, we may not be able to soothe your skin tumors while you have them, but we’re here for you during the aftermath.
No matter your skin’s sensitivity level, we have you covered here at Sebamed. Each of our products is safe to use on all skin types. Our wide range of mild cleansers, moisturizers, and hair care products are pH-balanced, dermatologist-tested, and hypoallergenic. For many of our customers, Sebamed has eliminated the need for prescription skin products and medicated skin care. Shop our complete collection here.