Seborrhoeic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses are also known as seborrhoeic warts, they are common harmless and often pigmented growths on the skin.

Despite their name, they are nothing to do with sebaceous glands or viral warts:

  • They are benign growths due to a build-up of ordinary skin cells.
  • There is some suggestion that it is related to exposure to sunlight.
  • In the UK more than half the men and more than third of women would have at least one seborrhoeic keratosis. By the age of 40, 30% of the population would be affected while by the age of 70 it increases to 75%. They are also found in younger people.
  • They are not infectious and do not become malignant.

Seborrhoeic keratoses have a rough feel to them and range in colour from light brown to mid brown to almost black. They can affect anyone, but on dark- skinned people they can also appear as multiple small dark brown or black bumps, especially on the face and the neck.

Seborrhoeic keratoses are much more common than skin cancers; however a very dark seborrhoeic keratosis can look similar to a melanoma. It is therefore important that either a general practitioner or specialist checks any pigmented lesions to ensure that the correct diagnosis is made.

Most need no treatment as they are harmless and cause no symptoms; however, for those who wish to have some or all of their keratoses removed it may be possible to have them treated by either freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), or scraping them off (curettage) under a local anaesthetic.

Such treatments may not be funded by the local NHS service.