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Cutaneous skin tags

 

Definition

Cutaneous skin tags are small, usually harmless (benign) skin growths.

Alternative Names

Skin tags; Acrochordons; Fibroepithelial polyps

Causes

Cutaneous tags are very common skin growths. They usually occur after midlife and are usually harmless and noncancerous (benign). The tag sticks out of the skin and may have a short, narrow stalk connecting it to the surface of the skin.

Cutaneous tags are usually painless and do not grow or change. However, they may be irritated from rubbing by clothing or other materials. Cutaneous skin tags are more common in people who are overweight or who have diabetes. They are thought to occur from skin rubbing against skin, so they commonly form in skin folds.

Symptoms

The only symptom is a growth on the skin. The growth (tag) is usually small, although some may be up to a half-inch long.

Other characteristics include:

  • Located on the neck, armpits, trunk, body folds, or other areas
  • May have a narrow stalk
  • Usually skin-colored, occasionally darker
Signs and tests

Diagnosis is based primarily on the appearance of the skin growth. Occasionally, a biopsy may be needed to diagnose an unusual-looking skin tag.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Cutaneous tags are generally benign and usually not bothersome. They may become irritated or be cosmetically displeasing. There is usually no regrowth or scar formation after cutaneous tags are removed, although new growths may appear elsewhere on the body.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have cutaneous tags and you want them removed, or if the appearance of a cutaneous tag changes.

Complications

There are usually no complications. Occasionally, irritation and discomfort may occur. If cut, they can bleed excessively. The skin tags may be cosmetically unsightly.

Treatments

Treatment is usually not necessary unless the cutaneous tags are irritating or are cosmetically displeasing. The growths may be removed by surgery, by freezing (cryotherapy), or by electrical burn (cautery).

Prevention

References
Benign skin tumors. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 20.

Images
Skin tag
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Review Date: 12/11/2009
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network; Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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