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Seborrhoeic Keratoses

Seborrhoeic keratoses (SK), also known as senile warts or basal cell papillomas, are a build-up of keratinised cells on the surface of the skin. They usually look like greasy or crusty spots which can be flat or raised and seem to be stuck on to the skin.


SK is actually nothing to do with sebaceous glands or viral warts. These growths of epidermal cells are not infectious or malignant. SK lesions have a rough surface and range in colour from flesh toned to black.

They sometimes run in families and first appear around the age of 40. Men are affected more than women. Their proliferation is increases with sun exposure. With age the SK lesions tend to grow and become more established.

For clinical examination dermatologists use the ABCDE rule to help to determine if a lesion is malignant.


Self examination is an important first step.


Take a note of any new growths, their shape (symmetrical or asymmetrical), border (even or uneven), colour (one colour or a variety of colours), diameter (anything above 6mm in diameter can be cancerous), evolving growths (any change in size, shape or colour or if the lesions starts itching or bleeding should alert you).

The treatment to remove SK lesions from the surface of the skin is carried out using diathermy cauterisation. Procedure involves cleaning the skin with an alcohol based solution. A very fine probe with emitting alternating current is used to slough off the keratin cells. The treated area may look pink and inflamed but this will soon subside. A scab will form which should be kept clean and dry.  After a couple of weeks the scab will drop off to reveal new clean skin underneath.

Depending on the size of the lesion(s) and the depth of their fibrous attachments, more than one treatment session may be required.

Seborrhoeic warts have been reported in association with the development of basal cell carcinoma. Any ambiguous or suspicious looking lesioins should be examined by your GP to give you extra reassurance.

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