Most skin bumps, spots, growths, and
moles are harmless. Colored skin spots, also called
pigmented lesions (such as freckles, moles, or flesh-colored skin spots), or
growths (such as
skin tags) may be present at birth or develop as the
Most skin spots on babies will go away without
treatment within a few months.
Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are
present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They can be many different
sizes, shapes, and colors, including brown, tan, black, blue, pink, white, red,
or purple. Some birthmarks appear on the surface of the skin, some are raised
above the surface of the skin, and some occur under the skin. Most birthmarks
are harmless and do not need treatment. Many birthmarks change, grow, shrink,
or disappear. There are many types of birthmarks, and some are more common than
others. For more information, see the topic
Acne is a
common skin change that occurs during the teen years and may last into
adulthood. Acne may be mild, with just a few blackheads (comedones), or severe,
with large and painful pimples deep under the skin (cystic lesions). It may be present on the chest and
back as well as on the face and neck. Boys often have more severe outbreaks of
acne than girls. Many girls have acne before their periods that occurs because
of changes in
hormone levels. For more information, see the topic
During pregnancy, dark
patches may develop on a woman's face. This is known as the "mask of
pregnancy," or chloasma, and it usually fades after delivery. The cause of
chloasma is not fully understood, although experts think that increased
levels of pregnancy hormones cause the pigment-producing cells in the skin
(melanocytes) to produce more pigment. You can reduce skin pigment changes
during pregnancy by using sunscreen and staying out of the sun.
Actinic keratosis and actinic lentigines are types of colored skin spots that
are caused by too much sun exposure. Although these spots are not skin cancers, they may
mean that you have an increased chance of getting skin cancer, such as
squamous cell skin cancer or a type of melanoma.
You may have an
allergic reaction to a
medicine that causes a skin change, or you may develop a skin
reaction when you are out in the sun while you are taking a medicine (this is
called photosensitivity). Rashes, hives, and itching may develop, and in some
cases may spread to areas of your skin that were not exposed to the sun
(photoallergy). For more information, see the topic
Skin changes can also
be caused by:
Some common skin growths
Treatment of a skin change depends on what is causing the skin
change and what other symptoms you are having. Moles, skin tags, and other
growths can be removed if they become irritated, bleed, or cause
While most skin changes are normal and
occur with aging, some may be caused by cancer.
Skin cancer may start as a growth or mole, a
change in a growth or mole, a sore that does not heal,
or irritation of the skin. It is the most common form of cancer in North
Skin cancer destroys skin cells and tissues and can
spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The three most common types of
skin cancer are
basal cell cancer,
squamous cell cancer, and
melanoma. See a picture of the
ABCDEs of melanoma.
Causes of skin cancer include:
Kaposi's sarcoma is a serious form of
skin cancer. It is often found in people who have an
impaired immune system, such as people with
AIDS. Blue-red raised bumps (nodules) may appear on
the face, arms, and trunk and inside the mouth.
Early detection and
treatment of skin cancer can help prevent problems. Treatment depends on the
type and location of the growth and how advanced it is when it is diagnosed.
Surgery to remove the growth will help determine what treatment will be needed.
For more information, see the topics
Skin Cancer, Melanoma and
Skin Cancer, Nonmelanoma.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
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Most bumps, spots, growths, or
moles do not need any type of home treatment. But the following measures
may be helpful:
Try the following measures if a bump, spot, or growth shows
minor signs of infection, such as a small amount of pus or redness around the
Note: Stop using the ointment if the skin under the bandage
begins to itch or develops a rash. The ointment may be causing a skin
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
Most noncancerous skin bumps, spots, and
growths can't be prevented. But there are steps you can take to help
prevent some skin problems:
Most skin cancer can be prevented. Use the following tips to
protect your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing
skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles.
The best way to prevent a
sunburn is to avoid sun exposure.
Stay out of the midday sun (from
10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon), which is the strongest sunlight. Find
shade if you need to be outdoors. You can also calculate how much
ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting by using the
shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a
shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high.
Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective
clothing, such as:
start protecting your child from the sun when he or she is a baby. Because
children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime
sun exposure in their first 18 years.
If you can't avoid being in
the sun, use a sunscreen to help protect your skin while you are in the
Some sunscreens say they are water-resistant or waterproof
and can protect for about 40 minutes in the sun if a person is doing a water
activity. Apply sunscreen more often if you are in water. Wet skin can burn
easily, so be sure to protect your skin even if you do not feel that
you are getting sunburned. Wearing a T-shirt while swimming does not protect
your skin unless sunscreen has also been applied to your skin under the
The following tips about sunscreen will help you use it
Do not use tanning booths to get a tan. Artificial tanning
devices can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
For more information on warts, see the topic
Warts and Plantar Warts.
information on how to help prevent acne, see the topic
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the SunWise
program to teach children and caregivers about the UV index and safe sun exposure.
April 27, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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