Seborrhoeic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses are non-cancerous growths that occur on the skin, and they may also be called basal cell papilloma, or seborrhoeic warts. They may be itchy and look like warts, but they are not contagious.


While seborrheic keratoses can occur anywhere on the body except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, they most commonly present on the face, chest, shoulders or back.

Seborrhoeic keratoses are harmless, and aside from being itchy, they don’t usually cause any pain or discomfort on their own, but depending on where they are located, they can affect self-esteem, so some people consider having them removed.

By the age of 70, over 75% of people will have seborrhoeic keratoses.

Most people will have seborrhoeic keratoses at some point in their lives, as they are common in both men and in women, and they tend to occur in individuals who;

  • Are over the age of 40;
  • Have historically been more exposed to sun damage – for example, through working outdoors;
  • Have parents who had seborrhoeic keratoses


Because they develop over time, it is a good idea to seek medical advice on the appearance of any new suspicious growth. The GP can often diagnose seborrhoeic keratoses, or will refer a patient presenting with one to an appropriate specialist for further investigation, diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Seborrhoeic Keratose

Seborrhoeic keratoses are small, waxy, wart-like looking growths on the surface of the skin, that can be varied in colour (usually light tan, brown, or black) and in size, from about 2 millimetres to 2.5 centimetres.

They are usually round, or oval-shaped, and they can have a scaly surface.

While it’s possible to have only one seborrhoeic keratosis, usually people have multiple growths, and they commonly present on the face, chest, shoulders or back.

They don’t tend to be sore or painful unless they become traumatised, but they might itch, and they characteristically look as though they have been pasted on the skin.

While skin tags might look similar to warts, the chief difference is that seborrhoeic keratoses are not contagious.

Causes of Seborrhoeic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses are not contagious.

Experts say it is not exactly clear what causes seborrhoeic keratoses, but they seem to occur in people over 40, and almost all people at some point in their lives. There is some suggestion that seborrhoeic keratoses might be genetically inherited, meaning that if a parent has seborrhoeic keratoses, their child is more likely to have one.

Treatment of Sebhorraic Keratoses at Derma

Your appointment will begin with a skin check and medical history, followed by recommended treatment options.

Treatment for seborrhoeic keratoses depends on several factors, including its location on your body and its size, but together with the dermatologist, you will discuss the latest and most effective treatments. The dermatologist will explain all potential side-effects, enabling you to select the best option for you, and depending on insurance, treatment can often be carried out the same day as the consultation.

It’s important to note that while the dermatologist can usually remove most seborrhoeic keratoses effectively, it depends on whether removal is medically suitable – for example, if it is not causing any serious problems, it might be better to monitor the seborrhoeic keratoses without intervening, since removal might not be appropriate in a certain area, or could risk leaving a scar that would be more noticeable.

Most people can safely have their seborrhoeic keratoses removed, but like any medical treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough consultation beforehand. There is a significant risk that the seborrheic keratoses may recur in time.

You might need to have seborrhoeic keratoses removed by freezing them, which is known as cryotherapy. Most people don’t need to have any anaesthetic, or a follow-up appointment for cryotherapy.

In some cases, or if one or more seborrhoeic keratosis lesions is particularly large, removal might require excision, and this may mean you require stitches, or possibly follow-up appointments.

If you are undergoing excision for seborrhoeic keratoses, and especially if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking certain types of medications, you may also need to have other investigations, like a blood test first, to make sure that you can safely undergo treatment.

If you decide not to undergo any treatment, you may be advised to return at regular intervals so that your skin can be closely monitored for changes. If this is the case, and if you also have moles, it may be advisable to consider mole mapping.

Related Specialists at Derma

The following dermatologists specialise in Seborrhoeic Keratoses

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