Skin tags aren’t a medical emergency, but they are often annoying or unsightly and can get caught on things so you probably want to get them removed. Here’s some information on what they are, what causes them, where they commonly occur, and how to remove them:
What are skin tags?
A skin tag is a small skin growth that is usually painless and harmless. It usually consists of hanging skin that may have a stalk. Skin tags are also known by these names: acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, fibroma molluscum, fibroma pendulum, soft fibroma, and Templeton skin tags.
They can appear anywhere on your body but are very common where skin can rub against more skin or clothing such as the eyelids, neck, groin area, and armpits. Skin tags are small, usually measured in millimeters, but can grow to a half-inch in length.
They are most common in places where friction occurs, such as skin folds or where clothing presses against the skin, such as the waistline. Below is a list of the most common sights for skin-tags:
- Beneath breasts, particularly in women
- The base of the neck
Once formed, they typically don’t get much bigger. You can get just one or two or may have many skin tags. They can also occur in isolated spots or together as a group.
Who gets skin tags?
Skin tags are very common, with over three million men and women in the U.S. experiencing them. They may be genetic, but anyone can get them. They’re more common in adults than children, though people of all ages, genders, and skin types can get skin tags.
Researchers have noticed that certain people tend to be more prone to getting skin tags, including obese, diabetic, and pregnant patients as well as those with Crohn’s disease.
What causes skin tags?
A skin tag may develop without noticing it. Doctors don’t know for sure what causes them, but they could be formed by a mix of genetics and environmental factors. Skin tags can also form because of skin rubbing together where it folds.
Skin tags are not cancerous and don’t increase the risk of cancer.
Surgical skin tag removal methods
Dermatologists typically use one of three methods to remove skin tags, depending on the size and location of the growth. Small skin tags can often be removed without the use of an anesthetic. You might experience some brief discomfort. If you have a larger skin tag or multiple skin tags, the doctor may apply a topical anesthetic before proceeding.
Small skin tags that have a stalk or stem, known as pedunculated skin tags, may be removed using a scalpel or sterile surgical blade scissors. Note: These scissors are much sharper than the scissors or nail clippers you have at home — and again, they are sterile, which is very important. The provider might apply a chemical compound prior to removal to decrease bleeding.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen, which causes it to fall off, usually within about 10 days. The liquid nitrogen may cause a brief burning sensation.
With cauterization, aka electrocautery, the skin tag is burned off at the base using an electric current. This simultaneously removes the skin tag and seals the wound to prevent infection and bleeding.