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Also known as basal cell papilloma, seborrhoeic warts or senile warts, these are common harmless warty lesions on the skin and can occur anywhere but are most frequent on the back, chest and face. They are sometimes considered a sign of ageing and some people will have more than one of these.
They can range in colour from skin coloured to brown or black and are therefore often confused for a type of skin cancer called melanoma. The surface can look cracked and they are rough to touch. They sometimes look stuck on to the skin surface. Where there is uncertainty, your Dermatologist can usually tell the difference from skin cancer by examining the lesion with a Dermatoscope.
Whilst most seborrhoeic keratoses do not cause symptoms, if they catch on clothing they can bleed and are sometimes itchy. They are often considered unsightly and are therefore removed privately for cosmetic reasons. Most NHS services no longer provide the option to remove benign lesions.
Whilst these lesions have a very typical appearance, it is considered standard practice among medical practitioners to ensure that any lesion removed from the skin is sent for analysis under the microscope to rule out skin cancer which may need further treatment.
Seborrhoeic keratoses cannot be treated with creams. Options to remove them include surgical removal under local anaesthetic or liquid nitrogen (freezing) treatment.
A shave excision or curettage (scrape) procedure is the best way to remove this type of lesion. Following removal, the base is sealed with a cautery device to stop any bleeding. This heals up like a scab and will fall away.
Liquid nitrogen can be used to freeze this type of lesion. Whilst this may not always be effective, multiple lesions can be treated in one go without using local anaesthetic. For more information on liquid nitrogen, see the minor procedures page.