seborrheic keratosis vs. melanoma

Seborrheic Keratosis vs. Melanoma: Learn the Differences

Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin growth. It may seem worrisome because it can look like a wart, pre-cancerous skin growth (actinic keratosis), or skin cancer. Despite their appearance, the big difference between seborrheic keratosis vs. melanoma is that seborrheic keratoses are harmless, and melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer.

Most often, you’ll find seborrheic keratosis growths on the chest, back, head, or neck; however, they can appear anywhere on the skin, except the palms and soles. They usually appear as a tan or brown color, but they can range in color from white to black. Seborrheic means “greasy” and keratosis means “thickening of the skin.”  Some growths may have a warty surface, while others look like dabs of warm, brown candle wax on the skin.

Seborrheic keratoses are not contagious. They have no relationship to skin cancer and do not pose a risk to your health. Unlike moles, they never turn into melanoma. Occasionally, they become inflamed or irritated, causing pain and itching. An injury to a seborrheic keratosis can cause an infection.

Most people get seborrheic keratoses when they are middle aged or older. They’re often called the “barnacles of aging” because they begin at a later age and can have a wart-like appearance. Usually people develop several growths, although it is possible to have just one.

Another big difference between seborrheic keratosis vs. melanoma is that melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can begin as a mole or wart. It is the most serious type of skin cancer and can spread to other areas of the body.

On some people, a melanoma may look like seborrheic keratosis. If you have a history of seborrheic keratosis, you may not notice melanoma in its early stages if you’re accustomed to unusual skin growths.

Seborrheic keratoses and melanoma are not easy to distinguish, but a dermatologist may be able to tell the difference based on a physical examination. In some cases, however, it is necessary to take a biopsy of the growth to check for cancer under a microscope.

Both seborrheic keratosis and melanoma can appear in many forms. If you’re concerned about any skin growths, you should not try to self-diagnose your condition or assume that a new skin growth is benign. If any new skin growths develop you should see your dermatologist, especially if the growth changes over time or you have a family history of skin cancer.

Regular skin checks are an important part of staying aware and reducing your risk of skin cancer, especially for those who have seborrheic keratosis. This reduces the likelihood of mistaking melanoma for just another seborrheic keratosis growth. Seeing your dermatologist annually for a skin and mole check are an important part of helping to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Do you have seborrheic keratosis or a growth that may be concerning to you? Schedule an appointment with us today, and our team of highly trained, board-certified dermatologists at Vujevich Dermatology Associates will examine it for you.

Vujevich Dermatology Associates offers medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology from some of the most highly trained physicians and clinicians in the greater Pittsburgh area.  You can reach our team at 412-429-2570 or visit our contact page to see all of our locations. You can also follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology.

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