Seborrheic Keratosis

What is a seborrheic keratosis?

Seborrheic keratoses are raised growths that appear on the skin.  They are non-cancerous, completely benign, and one of the most common tumors to occur in older individuals.  They are called many different names:  wisdom spots, maturity spots, age spots, senile warts, and sometimes, humorously, barnacles.  In dermatologist speak they are referred to simply as SKs.  The name originates from the term “seborrhea” which means excess sebum or grease and from the term “keratosis” which is a thickening of the skin.  

The most common reason for people to get seborrheic keratoses is genetics.  Typically if one or both parents have been affected there is a strong likelihood that a patient will develop these.  Unlike true warts, they are not caused by a virus, they are not contagious, and they do not spread.  Occasionally, these growths can grow during pregnancy, after other hormonal alterations, and in response to underlying medical problems.  They do tend to get very dark when sunless tanner is applied, but this is not associated with any increased risk.