What Are Benign Skin Growths?

Lifelong exposure to the sun can result in many different types of benign (noncancerous) growths on the skin by middle age and beyond. They include:

  • Actinic keratosis: These flat, scaly patches tend to appear on the face, ears, neck, scalp, arms and hands from sun exposure. They are considered pre-cancerous lesions.
  • Atypical moles: Moles are considered atypical when they are more than a half-inch across and have an irregular shape. Your physician is trained to recognize the difference between atypical moles and melanoma
  • Dermatofibromas: These small red or brown bumps appear on the legs, more commonly in women. They may itch.
  • Keratoacanthomas: These dome-shaped, flesh-colored growths may develop rapidly on the face, forearm or hand. If left untreated, they usually disappear on their own.
  • Lipomas: These fatty tumors are easily moved when palpated. They are often found on the back of the neck, abdomen and forearms and are more common in men.
  • Moles: Moles are usually small, dark brown spots caused by clusters of pigment-producing cells. They can be smooth or rough, flat or rounded, or may even change in appearance over time.
  • Pyogenic granulomas: After an injury, you may develop red, brown or bluish-black marks due to overgrowth of capillaries (small blood vessels) and swelling.
  • Seborrheic keratoses: These round or oval wart-like spots can be flesh colored, brown or black. They are usually flat or slightly raised and look like they were pasted on the skin.
  • Skin tags: These soft, tiny skin flaps are commonly found on the neck, armpits and groin. They may be related to metabolic syndrome and increased risk of heart disease.

Related Resources

American Academy of Dermatology*

Legal Information

By clicking on these websites, you are leaving the Northwestern Medicine website. These websites are independent resources. Northwestern Medicine does not operate or control the content of these websites. By visiting these websites, you agree to this third party’s terms of use for their website.