Other conditions that can resemble seborrheic keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses are noncancerous skin growths that sometimes resemble warts, moles, skin tags, or skin cancer.

  • Warts are virus-related. Like seborrheic keratoses, warts tend to look dry and textured. However, they appear to be embedded in the skin, rather than pasted on, and are gray-brown, while seborrheic keratoses can be tan, brown, or black.
  • Moles and seborrheic keratoses often range in color from light tan to brown or black. However, most moles develop during the first 20 years of life; seborrheic keratoses usually develop in people older than 30 and become more common with advancing age.
  • Skin tags and some seborrheic keratoses may look alike and are equally harmless.
  • Skin cancer (nonmelanoma) may appear as a slow-growing change in the skin, such as an irritation or sore that does not heal, or a change in a wart or mole.
  • Melanoma and seborrheic keratoses can share similar traits, such as dark color, itchiness, bleeding, or inflammation. They both can have color variation within the growth. Melanoma usually has a smooth surface that can vary in height, while seborrheic keratoses usually look the same across the whole surface.1 Melanoma does not usually have the warty, pasted-on appearance of seborrheic keratoses.

If you have a new or rapidly growing skin growth or group of growths, see your doctor to make sure the growths are not cancerous.

Citations

  1. Habif TP (2004). Seborrheic keratoses. In TP Habif, ed., Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 4th ed., pp. 698–705. Edinburgh: Mosby.

Last Updated: February 26, 2009

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