A skin tag – or acrochordon – is a small flap of tissue connected to the rest of the skin by a stalk. Skin tags can occur on the neck, back, eyelids, armpits, chest, and groin or under the breasts. They are most commonly seen on women and older people and are especially common in those who are overweight. Pregnant women are also susceptible to skin tags because they can be caused by an increase in hormones.
Skin tags are usually small – about 2 to 5 millimeters in diameter – but some can become as large as 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter. Unlike warts, which skin tags can resemble, skin tags are not contagious.
Skin tags themselves are harmless and painless, but they can become irritated if something like jewelry or clothing repeatedly rubs them. They can occur along with a condition called acanthosis nigricans that affects people who are overweight. In acanthosis nigricans, the patient’s skin becomes thickened, velvety, and dark, and the changes typically affect creases and body folds, which are usually in the neck, groin, and armpits. Skin tags are also seen in people with diabetes.
Skin tags are technically a type of growth or tumor, but they are usually benign. If a skin tag grows, bleeds, or changes color, the patient should get a biopsy to rule out causes like cancer. Also, other skin conditions might mimic skin tags. Some types of skin cancer may look like skin tags. Other look-alikes can include nevus lipomatosus, neurofibromas, warts, cysts, moles, and seborrheic keratoses. While many of these conditions are harmless, some are not and should be examined by a dermatologist.
There is some evidence linking skin tags and low-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. Researchers also believe that skin tags are bunches of collagen and blood vessels that have been trapped in unusually thick bits of skin. This is common in steroid users, as steroids cause collagen fibers to bind together and thus cause skin tags to form.
Skin tags are not usually cause for concern, but they should be checked out by a dermatologist if they are bleeding, irritated or twisted. Skin tags should also be examined if they appear suddenly, especially in large number or if they are larger than a pencil eraser.
If you’re concerned about new or existing skin tags, our medical team at Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center can examine them. We can determine if they are simply excess skin or something more serious. We can also offer skin tag removal if necessary. Contact Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center today to schedule your consultation, or stop by our Windermere office.