Skin tags: Causes and treatment

A skin tag is a small piece of soft, hanging skin that may have a peduncle, or stalk. They can appear anywhere on the body, but especially where skin rubs against other skin or clothing.

Other names are an acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, fibroma molluscum, fibroma pendulum, soft fibroma, and Templeton skin tags.

Skin tags are very common and generally occur after midlife. They affect men and women equally.

Fast facts on skin tags

Here are some key points about skin tags. More detail is in the main article.

Skin tags are benign tumors of the skin.

They commonly occur in creases or folds of the skin.

They are not dangerous, but they can be removed for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons.

Methods of skin tag removal include over the counter (OTC) therapies, excision, and cryotherapy.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags, Grook Da Oger, own work, 2012 (wikicommons)
Skin tags are harmless and often removed for cosmetic reasons.
Grook Da Oger, own work, 2012

Skin tags are benign, noncancerous, tumors of the skin. They consist of a core of fibers and ducts, nerve cells, fat cells, and a covering or epidermis.

They may appear on the:

eyelids

armpits

under the breasts

groin

upper chest

neck, in the case of papilloma colli

They often go unnoticed, unless they are in a prominent place or are repeatedly rubbed or scratched, for example, by clothing, jewelry, or when shaving.

Some people may have skin tags and never notice them. In some cases, they rub off or fall off painlessly. Very large skin tags may burst under pressure.

The surface of skin tags may be smooth or irregular in appearance. They are often raised from the surface of the skin on fleshy peduncles, or stalks. They are usually flesh-colored or slightly brownish.

Skin tags start small, flattened like a pinhead bump. Some stay small, and some grow bigger. They can range in diameter from 2 millimeters (mm) to 1 centimeter (cm), and some may reach 5cm.

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Treatment

As skin tags are usually harmless, removal is normally for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons.

Large skin tags, especially in areas where they may rub against something, such as clothing, jewelry or skin, may be removed due to irritation.

Removing a large skin tag from the face or under the arms can make shaving easier.

Surgery

The following procedures may be used:

Cauterization: The skin tag is burned off using electrolysis

Cryosurgery: The skin tag is frozen off using a probe containing liquid nitrogen

Ligation: The blood supply to the skin tag is interrupted

Excision: The tag is cut out with a scalpel

These procedures should only be done by a dermatologist, or specialist skin doctor, or a similarly trained medical professional.

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