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Skin Tags (cont.)

What Causes Skin Tags?

In many cases, skin tags are believed to develop due to friction between adjacent areas of skin or between clothing and skin. Common sites for skin tags include the following:

  • The underarms
  • Upper chest (particularly beneath the breasts in women)
  • Neck
  • Eyelids
  • Groin folds

Because of the increased skin-to-skin contact and friction, skin tags are more common in overweight orobese people. Although skin tags can sometimes be seen in children, they tend to increase with age and are most common in middle-aged and older individuals.

Studies have suggested an inherited susceptibility to the development of skin tags. In people with Crohn's disease, skin tags around the anal opening (perianal skin tags) are common. The hormonal changes of pregnancy can also stimulate the growth of skin tags, particularly during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Skin tags are not cancers. Reports of skin cancers arising in skin tags are extremely rare.

Picture of skin tags on the eyelid
Picture of skin tags on the eyelid

What Are the Symptoms of Skin Tags?

Skin tags are typically flesh-colored or may appear brown in light-skinned individuals. They may be smooth or wrinkled and range in size from very tiny (1 mm) to approximately the size of a grape. Although it is usually possible to recognize a stalk that attaches the skin tag to the underlying skin, very small skin tags may appear as raised bumps on the skin.

If a skin tag is twisted on its blood supply it may turn red or black. Skin tags may bleed if caught on clothing or are otherwise torn. Skin tags are not typically painful and are not associated with any particular skin conditions or symptoms. However, people who are prone to diabetes and have a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans often have associated skin tags, suggesting that factors which make one prone to diabetes may be operative in the development of skin tags.

When Should I Call the Doctor about Skin Tags?

Skin tags typically do not require medical treatment unless they are irritating to the patient or if removal for cosmetic reasons is contemplated.

How Are Skin Tags Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of skin tags is made by observation as skin tags usually have a very characteristic appearance.

Laboratory tests or other diagnostic studies are not required. However, your doctor may recommend that a skin tag be excised and sent to a pathologist for microscopic diagnosis to rule out other conditions of the skin that appear similar in appearance to skin tags. Certain types of moles (nevi), benign skin growths (such as seborrheic keratosis), and warts can sometimes resemble skin tags. It is very rare for a skin cancer to resemble a skin tag.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/29/2016

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