A Common Condition: Skin Tag Causes and Risk Factors
Skin tags are very common. It is estimated that almost half of adults have at least one skin tag, according to the AOCD. They are common as people age, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
No one knows what causes skin tags, but they are more common with pregnancy and weight gain, says Baxt. There is no way to prevent skin tags other than staying a normal weight, she adds. They are also more common among people with diabetes and a family history of skin tags, according to the AOCD. One theory is that the friction created by skin rubbing against skin, a side effect of being overweight, causes skin tags in certain people, which would explain why skin tags often grow in body folds, according to the AOCD.
In rare cases, skin tags could be a symptom of nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS), which is a complex genetic disorder in which individuals are predisposed to developing a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Skin-tag-like basal cell carcinoma in childhood may represent a marker for NBCCS, according to one study.
Skin Tag Treatment Options: Simple Surgical Procedures
Sometimes skin tags fall off on their own as they get pulled and irritated, according to the AAFP. The only way to get rid of skin tags is to have a dermatologist remove them with a minor surgical procedure, says Baxt.
Depending on where your skin tags are located, you might not choose any skin tag treatment — out of sight can lead to out of mind. However, you might want to seek skin tag treatment for cosmetic reasons if, for instance, you have one on an eyelid and it detracts from your appearance. Another reason to have skin tags removed is if they are in an area that gets a lot of friction, even just from wearing clothes or jewelry, causing irritation and bleeding.
Options for treatment include cryosurgery to remove skin tags by freezing the skin or electrocautery to burn off the skin tags or destroy the tissue with heat. If the skin tags are hanging, cutting them off with medical scissors is another option. These are simple surgical procedures that cause minimal discomfort, minimal recovery time, and minimal scarring, says Baxt. However, in rare cases, skin tags can grow back, and new ones can form.
While not at all dangerous, skin tags can be a nuisance or cosmetic woe. But it’s also perfectly fine to ignore them. One word of caution: As with any changes on your skin, if the appearance of a skin tag changes, have your doctor or dermatologist take a look at it.
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