What Are Skin Tags Exactly?

Also known as fibroma pendulum, a skin tag is a benign (non-cancerous) soft area of skin that hangs off the body. Technically a tumor, skin tags are made up of collagen fibers, capillaries, lymphatic vessels, a core of ducts, fat cells, nerve cells and are covered by the epidermis. Caused by bunches of trapped blood vessels and collagen inside thicker parts of the skin, they are usually flesh colored, about the size of a grain of rice or bigger, and look like a little flap of skin connected to the body by a small stalk of tissue called a peduncle. Known to doctors as acrochordons, the most common areas where they occur are in the folds of your skin, such as the eyelids, neck, groin under arms and upper chest, but can also be found elsewhere on the body. While it can be alarming to see any kind of growth on your skin, these growths are typically harmless.

Skin tags cause no symptoms unless they are repeatedly scratched or rubbed. Large skin tags could burst under pressure and shaving and wearing certain types of jewelry and clothing could cause them to form or rupture.

Are Skin Tags Common?

If you’ve ever found an extraneous nub of tissue protruding from your skin you’re not alone. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, they occur in as much as half the adult population. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. Both men and women tend to get more skin tags as they age, increasing in prevalence up to age 60. While they tend to affect middle-aged people more than younger individuals, they can happen to anyone. Skin tags are also more common in pregnant women caused by hormonal changes.

Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Since skin tags are thought to arise more in areas of skin friction or rubbing, skin tags are also more common in overweight individuals.

In reality, some people are more prone to developing skin tags and may have new growths periodically. This is why some individuals require periodic skin tag removal at annual intervals. Electrocautery is a very effective procedure that uses a light electrical current to burn off the skin tags in only one session.

Genetic and Hereditary Factors

Skin tags; no one likes the sight of them, but where do they come from? Well, you can thank your family for this one. Studies have shown a genetic predisposition to the development of skin tags. Some of us are just more prone to skin tags than others. Fortunately, these soft benign bumps, that can show up anywhere from your eyelids to your groin, are typically harmless. Many of us have just one or two, but for the unlucky few who are genetically predisposed, they might have a dozen or more. It’s all part of our nature, just like curly hair or green eyes. So, if your mother has a dozen skin tags, you probably will too.

Skin tags aren’t the most important genetic condition scientists are working on fixing, especially since skin tag removal procedures are quite easy. However, if your skin tag increases in size, changes in colour, or causes you pain, see your doctor immediately.

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