PatientPlus articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.
Synonyms: acrochordon, soft fibromas, fibroepithelial polyps, fibroma pendulans
Skin tags are small, often pedunculated, skin-coloured or brown papules that occur most frequently where there are skin folds. Common sites are the neck, axilla, groins and eyelids. They are also known as acrochordons. They are usually 0.2 to 0.5 cm in diameter.
- Skin tags are very common and may occur in up to half of the population.
- They occur in both men and women and incidence increases with age.
- They are more common in patients with type 2 diabetes and those with obesity.
- It may be that skin tags are caused by irritation and chaffing as skin folds rub together.
- They may be more common at sites where rubbing of clothing over skin occurs.
- Insulin resistance may play a part.
Diagnosis is usually apparent from the typical appearance. Skin tags are usually pedunculated and have been described as looking as though they hang from the skin. They may also be sessile.
- Filiform warts have fine finger-like projections on the surface and tend to be firmer on palpation.
- Melanocytic naevi can also be pedunculated but have a broader base.
- Multiple skin tags are seen in Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome; a rare, autosomal dominant inherited dermatosis characterised by multiple skin lesions developing in adulthood, mainly on the face, neck and upper body. As well as skin tags, those affected have fibrofolliculomas and trichodiscomas, benign skin tumours forming around hair follicles.
Primary care management
Skin tags do not have malignant potential but are often removed due to irritation or for cosmetic reasons.
Small skin tags may be removed by snipping off with a pair of sharp scissors or by applying a ligature round the base. If the base is fine no anaesthetic is needed and little bleeding occurs. Cryotherapy is sometimes also used.
Larger ones will need local anaesthetic and can be removed by shave and cautery, or cutting cautery alone.
Further reading & references
- Luba MC, Bangs SA, Mohler AM, et al; Common benign skin tumors. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Feb 15;67(4):729-38.
- Hahler B; An overview of dermatological conditions commonly associated with the obese patient. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2006 Jun;52(6):34-6, 38, 40 passim.
- Skin Tags; DermNet NZ
- Barbato MT, Criado PR, Silva AK, et al; Association of acanthosis nigricans and skin tags with insulin resistance. An Bras Dermatol. 2012 Jan-Feb;87(1):97-104.
- Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, DermNet NZ
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Richard Draper
Dr Mary Harding
Prof Cathy Jackson