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Benign Skin Growths

As a person grows older and is exposed to sunlight, the skin changes. Children may have freckles and moles, which may multiply or darken over time in response to sun exposure.

What are some different types of skin growths?

Skin Growth

Characteristics

Treatment

Dermatofibromas

Small, firm, red or brown bumps caused by an accumulation of fibroblasts (soft tissue cells under the skin). They often occur on the legs and may itch.

Dermatofibromas can be surgically removed if they become painful or itchy.

Dermoid cyst

A benign tumor which is made up of hairs, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. Some internal dermoid tumors may even contain cartilage, bone fragments, and teeth.

Dermoid cysts may be surgically removed for cosmetic reasons.

Freckles

Darkened, flat spots that typically appear only on sun-exposed areas of the skin as a response to long-term sun exposure. Freckles are most common in people with blond or red hair.

No treatment is necessary for freckles.

Keloids

Smooth, firm, raised, fibrous growths on the skin that form in wound sites. Keloids are more common in African-Americans.

Injections of corticosteroid drugs may help to flatten the keloids. Other treatment approaches may include surgery or silicone patches to further flatten the keloids.

Lipomas

Round or oval lumps under the skin caused by fatty deposits. Lipomas are more common in women and tend to appear on the forearms, torso, and back of the neck.

Lipomas are generally harmless, but if the lipoma changes shape, your physician may perform a biopsy. Treatment may include surgical removal if the lipoma bothers the child.

Moles (nevi)

Small skin marks caused by pigment-producing cells in the skin. Moles can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some contain hair. Most moles are dark brown or black, but some are skin-colored, yellowish, pink or red. Moles can change over time and often respond to hormonal changes. Sun exposure may predispose individuals to an increased number of moles or cause them to darken.

Most moles are benign and no treatment is necessary. Some moles may however, develop into skin cancer (melanoma). See below for signs.

Atypical moles (dysplastic nevi)

Larger than normal moles (more than a half inch across), atypical moles are not always round. Atypical moles can be tan to dark brown, on a pink background. These types of moles may occur anywhere on the body.

Treatment may include removal of any atypical mole that changes in color, shape, and/or diameter. In addition, people with atypical moles should avoid excessive sun exposure, since sunlight may accelerate changes in atypical moles. Persons with atypical moles should consult a physician for any changes that may indicate skin cancer.

Pyogenic granulomas

Red bumps caused by excessive growth of capillaries (small blood vessels) and swelling. Pyogenic granulomas may form after an injury to the skin.

Some pyogenic granulomas disappear without treatment. Sometimes, a biopsy is necessary to rule out cancer. Treatment includes liquid nitrogen cryotherapy or surgical removal with biopsy.

Distinguishing benign moles from melanoma

According to recent research, certain moles are at higher risk for changing into cancerous growths, including malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Large moles that are present at birth and atypical moles have a greater chance of becoming malignant. Recognizing changes in your child's moles, by following this ABCDE Chart, is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma and other cancerous skin growths at their earliest stage of development when treatment is most likely to be effective. In children, the most important feature suggestive of melanoma is:

Normal Mole / Melanoma

Sign

Characteristic

Asymmetry

When half of the mole does not match the other half

Border

When the border (edges) of the mole is ragged or irregular

Color

When the color of the mole varies throughout

Diameter

If the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser

 

Evolving

Changes in the way the mole looks, especially those changes that occur over a short amount of time (weeks-months).

Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute