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
Cause of skin changes
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:
- Autoimmune diseases, such as
- Reactions to a bite, such as
Lyme disease from a tick bite. For more information,
see the topic
- Bacterial skin infections, such as
- Viral infections, such as
- Liver problems, such as
hepatitis, which may cause your skin and the whites of
your eye to turn yellow (jaundice).
Common skin changes
Some common skin growths
- Moles. Most people have
between 10 and 40 moles. You may continue to form new moles until you are in
your 40s. Moles may change over time. They can gradually get bigger, develop a
hair, become more raised, get lighter in color, fade away, or fall
- Skin tags. These are harmless growths that
appear in the skin folds on the neck, under the arms, under the breasts, or in
the groin. They begin as small fleshy brown spots and may grow a small stalk.
Skin tags never turn into skin cancer.
- Seborrheic keratoses, which are harmless skin growths that are found most often on the
chest or back; occasionally on the scalp, face, or neck; and less commonly
below the waist. They begin as slightly raised tan spots that develop a crusty
appearance like that of a wart. Seborrheic keratoses never turn into skin
cancer. For more information, see the topic
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 .
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.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.
- Skin Cancer: Protecting Your Skin
Most bumps, spots, growths, or
moles do not need any type of home treatment. But the following measures
may be helpful:
- Keep the area clean and dry. Wash with a
mild soap and warm (not hot) water. Do not
- Avoid irritating the area.
- Do not squeeze, scratch, or pick at the
- Leave the area exposed to the air whenever possible.
- Adjust your clothing to avoid rubbing the bump or spot, or cover
it with a bandage.
- Conceal a mole or birthmark if you are embarrassed
by how it looks. Many cosmetics are designed for this purpose.
- Shower after swimming or using a hot tub to rinse off
chlorine or salt water. Use a moisturizer after showering.
a skin self-exam to learn about your skin. This will help you spot new skin
- Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids each day. For more information, see the topic
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Signs of a
skin infection develop.
- A mole or colored
- Bleeds or forms an
- Changes in size, shape, or
- Becomes sensitive, itchy, or painful.
- Symptoms do not improve, become more severe or
frequent, or don't go away.
Most noncancerous skin bumps, spots, and
growths can't be prevented. But there are steps you can take to help
prevent some skin problems:
Measures to decrease your risk of infection
- Keep your skin clean.
- Wash with lukewarm water and a mild soap or
cleanser. Do not use soaps and skin cleansers that contain irritating
- Rinse your skin thoroughly after you wash it, and gently
pat it dry.
- Wash soon after participating in activities that cause
you to sweat.
- Do not use skin care products that contain oil,
because they may clog your pores. Instead, use water-based skin care products.
Read the labels on products, and look for the terms oil-free or
- Do not squeeze, scratch, drain, or puncture a
painful lump. Doing this can irritate or inflame the lump, push any existing
infection deeper into the skin, or cause severe bleeding.
irritation by wearing soft, cotton clothing or moleskin under sports equipment
(if possible). Parts of equipment (such as chin straps) can rub your skin and
irritate it. Adjust your clothing so that belts and straps or elastic from bras
or underwear do not rub against your skin.
Prevent skin cancer
Most skin cancer can be prevented by
protecting your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing
skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles by avoiding sun exposure and using sunscreen protection. Be sure to prevent sun exposure in children and older adults too.
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
- How long have you had the skin spot?
- Has your skin spot changed? If so, how?
- Where did it
first appear? Where is it now?
- What other symptoms, such as itching
or pain, do you have?
- Are there any other family members who have
the same skin changes or a history of skin changes?
- Is there
anything new or different that you have been exposed to, such as a medicine,
personal care products, products at work, or things related to sports or
- What home treatment have you tried? How did it
- Have you ever been treated for a skin condition like this in
- What prescription and nonprescription medicines do you
- Do you have any
Environmental Protection Agency: SunWise (U.S.)
Environmental Protection Agency: SunWise (U.S.)
- Finger, Hand, and Wrist Problems, Noninjury
- Insect Bites and Stings and Spider Bites
- Male Genital Problems and Injuries
- Mouth Problems, Noninjury
- Rectal Problems
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Swollen Glands, Hernias, and Other Lumps Under the Skin
- Tick Bites
- Toe, Foot, and Ankle Problems, Noninjury