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Benign Skin Growths

What is Benign-Skin-Growths?

​Benign skin tumours are growths caused by abnormal proliferation of cells in the skin. These growths do not turn cancerous. Some common benign skin growths include moles, skin tags, sebaceous hyperplasia and seborrhoeic keratosis.


Melanocytic naevi (Moles)

Moles are due to abnormal collection of pigment producing cells known as melanocytes in the skin. Most moles are dark and pigmented but some moles may be lightly pigmented or may even be flesh coloured. Moles can also change in appearance with the life cycle of the mole. With advancing age, they become raised and dome-shaped and often appear lighter. These changes do not signify cancerous and do not require removal. Rarely, moles may be a cause for concern if they develop irregular borders, bleeding or sudden increase in size.

Skin Tags

Skin tags are harmless skin-coloured or brown growths on the skin. They commonly occur on the neck, underarms, groin and eyelids. They are usually asymptomatic and can range in varying sizes and number.

Seborrheic Keratosis

These are superficial skin overgrowths which appear in increasing numbers with age. In early lesions, they are brown and slightly raised; however, they may enlarge and turn darker with time. Itch is also a common symptom. They are commonly located on the face and can also be seen on the trunk, groin and sun-exposed areas. They are benign do not transform to skin cancer.

Sebaceous hyperplasia

Sebaceous hyperplasias are yellowish discrete circular growths often seen on the face. They have a characteristic central dimpling. This benign growth is due to an increase in proliferation of oil glands just below the surface of the skin.


They are flesh coloured discrete growths often located just below or around the eyes. These benign growths are due to the abnormal proliferation of sweat ducts in the skin.

Epidermal Cysts

Closed sacs with an epithelial lining containing semi-solid contents (keratin). They are round, sometimes dome-shaped bumps, lying just under the skin surface. Some are yellow or whitish. A small dark plug is often present, through which it may be possible to squeeze out some of the cyst’s contents. The cysts range in size from those that are smaller than a pea to those that are several centimeters across. They are most common on the face, neck, genital skin and upper trunk.

Pyogenic Granuloma

A pyogenic granuloma is a harmless overgrowth of tiny blood vessels on the skin. It carries no risk of cancer. Most pyogenic granulomas come up for no obvious reason, but some seem to follow minor damage to the skin, such as a cut that does not heal properly or a prick from a thorn. They can also be associated with pregnancy and certain medications such as retinoids. Pyogenic granulomas are not contagious. They stick out from the skin surface as bright red growths; later they may turn a darker shade. Their surface is shiny and moist but may become crusty after they have bled. They come up quickly over a few days, but tend to stop growing after a few weeks. They are usually single and can appear anywhere, but are most common on head, neck, fingers and on the upper torso. Pyogenic granulomas ooze and bleed easily after minor knocks. They can also be painful.
When to seek medical advice

See your doctor if:

  • You're so uncomfortable with the condition that it affects your quality of life
  • You’re bothered by the cosmesis of the condition
  • There is profuse bleeding
Treatment and drugs

Moles are often removed on cosmetic grounds. The choice of treatment is surgical excision. After excision, there will be stitches in place which will be removed after 7 to 14 days, depending on the site of the mole. The mole will be replaced by a linear scar.

Skin tags are easily removed by snip excision and electrocautery. This is done under topical anaesthesia such as using EMLA cream. After the surgery, there will be superficial wounds which heal in 4 to 7 days. There may be some darkening after the wounds heal, but this will usually fade with time, over the next few weeks. There is also a high chance of recurrence of skin tags despite removal.

Cosmetic removal of seborrhoeic keratosis can be performed in various ways. Early single number lesions can be treated with liquid nitrogen. When multiple, seborrhoiec keratosis is best treated with electrocautery.

Sebaceous hyperplasia and syringomas may be treated with electrocautery or laser. These treatments will flatten the lesions; however there is a risk of scarring, post inflammatory darkening and recurrence following the treatment.


Your doctor may prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic if your epidermal cyst gets infected. Simple surgical excision under local anesthesia can be performed to remove these cysts.

Pyogenic granulomas may be treated with cryotherapy, electrocautery or laser. These treatments will flatten the lesions; however there is a risk of scarring, post inflammatory darkening and recurrence following the treatment.
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