Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Benign Skin Growths

Many benign skin growths are caused by years of exposure to the sun. Others run in families or appear to respond to hormonal changes. Pyogenic granulomas appear after damage to the skin from an injury.

Diagnosing benign skin growths

Most benign skin growths can be diagnosed during a physical exam. Some may look suspiciously like skin cancer. If so, your physician will take a biopsy (tissue sample) for closer analysis under a microscope.

Types of biopsies include:

  • Excisional biopsy: In this procedure, the entire lesion and part of the surrounding skin is removed with a scalpel. The wound is then closed with sutures, staples, steri-strips or surgical glue.
  • Incisional biopsy: In an incisional biopsy, only part of the lesion is removed.
  • Punch biopsy: Using a special tool, a short cylinder of tissue—like an apple core—is removed. The biopsy sample is removed and the edges of the wound are then stitched together.
  • Shave biopsy: Your physician will shave off the top layers of a lesion with a scalpel. Since part of the lesion can be left behind, you may need another procedure to completely remove it.

If you have a number of benign skin growths, your physician may ask you to return for yearly skin cancer checks.

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.