There’s a cancer related reason why you should never self-remove a skin tag.
A skin tag is formed in areas where there’s friction such as that from clothing or folds in the skin.
This is why skin tags usually show up on the neck, under the arms and in the anal area.
Due to their location they may become irritated and even bleed.
So the urge to self-remove them may become prominent.
But then…you might be wondering if snipping off a skin tag, or twisting or scratching it off might lead to cancer.
“Self-removal of a skin tag cannot cause skin cancer,” says Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, board certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic surgeon with New Jersey Dermatology & Aesthetics Center.
“Skin tags are benign lesions and do not transform into skin cancer,” continues Dr. Husain.
The trauma of self-removal – whether it’s by the patient without an anesthetic or by a doctor with an anesthetic and specialized tool — will not cause a DNA mutation – which would be required for a malignant transformation.
Possible Cancer Connection to a Skin Tag Removal
Dr. Husain explains, “However, lesions that can look similar to skin tags may in fact be skin cancer, so it’s important to be evaluated by a board certified dermatologist.”
What kind of skin cancer might be mistaken for a harmless skin tag?
You guessed it: melanoma.
Publicity about melanoma primarily focuses on that of changing moles, or new “moles” that show up.
Pictures of melanoma in pamphlets, print magazine and online articles almost always show the superficial spreading subtype.
The subungual, nodular and amelanotic subtypes have gotten more attention over the years.
But there’s another subtype of this skin cancer that gets very little recognition: pedunculated melanoma. This is a rare subtype.
To the naked eye, this can resemble an inflamed skin tag, and misdiagnosis is possible.
In fact, a nodular melanoma can also mimic an inflamed skin tag.
To be safe and 100 percent sure, when you have a skin tag removed by a dermatologist, request that it be sent for a biopsy – no matter how innocent it looks.
And this…is why you should never remove a skin tag yourself.
Dr. Husain has extensive training in advanced skin cancer surgery and reconstruction as well as cosmetic procedures including injectables, body contouring and laser surgery. He delivers lectures on dermatologic topics at national conferences.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.