Skin Growths and Spots (Lumps and bumps)

There are many types of benign skin growths. Sometimes, skin cancer may be mistaken as normal skin lesion e.g. pimple, mole or age spot. Do consult a dermatologist to have a proper clinical evaluation.

Types of benign skin growths and some of the more common examples

Seborrheic Keratosis/Age Spots

Seborrheic keratosis are non-cancerous growths. They are usually brown but can vary from light brown to black. They vary in size from a few millimeters to larger than 10 millimeters in diameter. Their main feature is the waxy, “pasted-on” or “stuck-on” appearance.

They become more common, more numerous and grow larger with advancing age and hence they are also commonly known as age spots. A seborrheic keratosis may turn black and may be difficult to distinguish from skin cancer at times. Moreover, skin cancer can often mimic seborrheic keratosis; it is recommended to remove the lesion especially if it itches, gets irritated, or bleeds easily. Hence, a biopsy is needed to help determine if it is cancerous. Otherwise, they can be easily removed with laser, cautery or cryotherapy.

    Actinic Keratosis

    Actinic keratosis is also called solar keratosis. They are caused by sun; hence, the face, hands, forearms, and the V of the neck are the most common areas for actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is precancerous, which means they may become skin cancers. Do seek help early with a dermatologist in order to get rid of these precancerous lesions.


      Lipomas are slow growing lumps made up of fat. Like cysts, they are very common and not malignant. They are often dome- shaped and usually feel soft and rubbery. They move around easily under the skin and they can appear anywhere on the body as one lump or in groups. Lipomas can easily be removed by minor surgery. There are standard excisions and an alternative with minimal incision / scar. This latter technique is useful in areas with thin dermis, such as the face and extremities.

        Benign Fibrous Histiocytoma (Dermatofibroma)

        Benign fibrous histiocytoma is a common benign fibrous skin growth consisting of a firm, smooth lump occurring usually on the limbs. They are usually triggered by skin injury. On pale skin, they range from pink to light brown, and on darker skin from dark brown to black. They are sometimes itchy and might be mistaken for an insect bite. They can be easily removed by minor surgery.

          Cherry Angioma

          Cherry angioma is a smooth, typically cherry-red bump on the skin. They are the result of excessive growth of blood vessels in the skin and the cause is not known. The size of the growths can range from 1 to 5mm in size and the colour varies from red, purple or even deep blue depending on how deep in the skin they are. Cherry angioma doesn’t require treatment except for cosmetic reasons. In cosmetic removal, the angioma can be removed by electrosurgery or lasers.


            Neurofibromas are soft, fleshy, slow-growing masses that occur under the skin, sometimes even deep within the body. These are harmless tumors; however, they can turn malignant or cancerous in rare cases. They can be painful occasionally and symptoms may vary, depending on the locations and the sizes of the tumors. If the tumor is not causing any symptoms, no treatment is necessary.

              Skin Tags

              Skin tags usually occur as multiple small (1-2mm) soft skin growths with a connective tissue stalk. Patients often request for the removal of these skin tags for cosmetic reasons, or after they have been irritated by jewelry around the neck or have become inflamed. Their removal is usually quite straightforward with cautery or laser surgery.

                Skin growths can be tricky at times. Once, a presumed lipoma on a man’s shin turned out to be a nasty chondrosarcoma, a serious soft tissue cancer. Not surprisingly, the patient was shocked!

                  Skin Growths and Spots ( Lumps and bumps)

                  Sometimes, skin cancer may be mistaken as normal skin lesion e.g. pimple, mole or age spot.

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                    An innocuous looking growth that was biopsy proven to be a cancerous growth that has spread from Thyroid cancer.

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                    Seborrheic keratosis

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                    Multiple seborrheic keratosis

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                    Actinic keratosis on hands

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                    Actinic keratosis

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                    Dr. Wong Soon Tee

                    Consultant Dermatologist

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                    Over 30 Years of Dermatology Experience

                    • MBBS, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore
                    • MRCP. Member of Royal College of Physicians, United Kingdom
                    • FAMS, Fellow of Academy of Medicine, Singapore
                    • Adjunct Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore
                    • Visiting Consultant, University Dermatology Division, National University Hospital
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