With the skin being the largest organ in the body (about 20 square feet of surface area), it can have many different types of growths. As dermatologists, we separate these growths into the major categories of benign (meaning non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) growths. Properly diagnosing and treating common benign conditions and distinguishing them from malignant lesions are vital skills for the best dermatologists.
Some very dangerous cancers can arise in the skin, yet most skin spots fall into the harmless or benign category. Based on our extensive experience in examining the skin and making a diagnosis for our patients at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, we would like to share with you our “rank order list” of the top 10 most common benign skin spots including some basic information about them.
Keep in mind that our primary purpose in doing this is to provide additional information to our patients so they can better understand what they have once we have made a diagnosis for them. This guide is not intended to be used for making a diagnosis at home, independent of an examination and evaluation by dermatology professional.
The best dermatologists know that making a diagnosis requires training and experience in dermatology. In some cases, it may also require a biopsy of the skin spot for microscopic analysis if there is any uncertainty about the appearance of the growth.
Top Ten Common Skin Spots
With those things being said, we hope you will find this guide useful for the top 10 most common benign skin spots. Note: the pictures in this article were all obtained during clinical examination on one day and do not represent the best example of each condition. The pictures are published with the patients’ expressed permission.
Here is our top 10 count down for the most common skin spots we see:
Dermatofibroma occurs most commonly on the legs and less commonly on the arms or back, often developing after a minor injury in the skin such as a mosquito bite. They show up as a firm red-to-brown minimally raised spot. They tend to remain the same, unchanged over time. One problem with them is that they can mimic the appearance of melanoma and they may also cause symptoms. One of the most common issues seen with these growths relates to them getting caught and irritated with shaving, especially in women. We may remove them with a biopsy if there is any concern about their appearance or they are causing problems with shaving.
#9 Epidermoid Cyst
Because we have pores all over our skin, we can develop this type of cyst virtually anywhere on our body. The exception would be the palms and soles of the feet. The cysts develop because of plugging in the pore and a nodule then gradually enlarges because of dead skin debris building up inside of it. One of our common areas for these growths in the back though they can occur in numerous other locations including the face, neck, arms, and legs.
Cysts will gradually grow though this can be slow. This may not cause an issue, or they can grow to the point where they rupture and become inflamed or infected, even draining material at times. If they are growing substantially or causing symptoms of any sort, removal should be considered. We have extensive experience removing cysts in our offices. It is worth noting that if a cyst is ruptured and inflamed, removal right at that time is not possible but rather medical treatment or incision and drainage which removes the contents of the cyst can help temporarily. Most cysts will then heal and quiet down, potentially being removed later when they have settled back down to their native state.
Wart (verruca vulgaris) is a growth on the skin due to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Common warts are often seen on the hands and feet. They are usually a scaly bump and may have overlying black dots. These are more common in kids but can also arise in adults. Warts in the genital area may also develop due to sexually transmitted HPV. Please see our previous blogs on COMMON WARTS https://www.midlandsderm.com/warts-facts-treatment-omaha/ and Genital Warts https://www.midlandsderm.com/genital-warts-hpv-symptoms-treatments/ for more information about warts.
Milium (milia = plural) appear as small white bumps in the skin, similar to a grain of rice. These are a type of minute cyst that also arises from the pore. They are most common on the face. They also can occur in both adults and children. These are harmless, though they can be treated to improve their appearance.
#6 Sebaceous Hyperplasia
These growths represent an enlargement in the oil gland. The absolute most common place we see them is on the face. Usually, they appear as yellow to white bumps that multiply over time. The reason for this is that all over the face we have tens of thousands of pores, and each of these pores has an oil gland surrounding it. Over time in adulthood hormones can cause the oil glands to enlarge and start to protrude above the skin. They are harmless and free of symptoms, yet there are some ways that we can treat them to minimize their appearance for patients. Those of us who get them, tend to be gifted with more oily skin.
#5 Common Mole
The common mole (aka nevus) is something we very commonly see in the skin. Unfortunately, the skin cancer known as melanoma can develop in moles at times. When looking at moles and evaluating them for potential risks the key that we are looking for can be summed up in one word—uniformity. Moles that have irregularity (lack of uniformity) to them of one sort or another pique our interest and may prompt the need for a skin biopsy, removing the mole for testing and to confirm that it is not something more serious. Please refer to our previous blog on ( https://www.midlandsderm.com/when-to-worry-about-a-mole/ ) for more information on this. The classic appearance for a normal mole is a light brown or flesh-colored spot or bump in the skin that has uniform features including smooth borders, small size, one uniform color throughout, and is not changing over time.
#4 Solar Lentigo
We call sunspots solar lentigo (plural: solar lentigines), and they are incredibly common. These generally occur in areas that get the most sun exposure over our lifetimes including the back, upper chest, and forearms as well as the face. 99 percent of these will never be a problem however a very small minority can transform into melanoma. This is where using the ABCDE rule to monitor them for any changes can be very helpful.
These spots can be treated for cosmetic purposes with certain medications and surgical procedures.
#3 Skin Tags
Skin tags are flesh-colored bumps that hang off the skin. They tend to occur most commonly in areas of skin folds, such as around the neck, the armpits, the eyelids, on the lower chest, and in the groin. Some of us are more predisposed genetically than others to develop these. As they do develop where skin rubs against skin, especially in the folds, these are more common in individuals who carry more weight. They are generally harmless, but at times may cause symptoms prompting removal. They may also be removed for cosmetic purposes.
#2 Cherry Angioma
Cherry angiomas can start even earlier in life. Here we see small red bumps in the skin. Some people will be blessed with hundreds of these. At times, their color can vary from red, having more of a blue or purple hue. They can develop nearly anywhere on the body. Though treatment is not necessary, these spots may be removed for cosmetic purposes. This can be done with electrocautery (a small electric current device to cauterize) or with a laser. At Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, we have one of the best lasers in the world known as the Vbeam Perfecta, which is quite effective at treating cherry angiomas.
#1 Seborrheic Keratosis
Seborrheic keratosis, called SK for short, is incredibly common in adult patients. Most days in dermatology we will see hundreds (if not thousands) of these.
Appearance-wise they can be various shades of color, most commonly white to brown or gray. They are flaky and scaly, and often have an appearance like they have been stuck on the skin and could literally be peeled off, removing them. They can develop just about anywhere on the body. SKs start to arise in adulthood and multiply in number as our birthdays multiply, increasing with age.
Though generally harmless, we may remove these at times either by freezing with liquid nitrogen or a skin biopsy if they are causing symptoms, such as catching, itching, or triggering another type of discomfort.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We hope this quick reference guide has been helpful for you regarding the most common spots in the skin. Remember, if you ever have any concerns about the appearance of spots consider seeing us at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands where we have tremendous experience in the field of dermatology, evaluating, diagnosing, and either reassuring you about or treating you for skin issues.
We have two clinics in Omaha, including a new clinical location at 156th & Maple. We also have clinics in Council Bluffs, as well as outreach locations in rural community medical centers in Eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. Call us at (402) 933-3770 for more information or contact us to schedule a consultation.