LivingTypes of benign spots that can form on your...

Types of benign spots that can form on your skin


Surely at some point in your life you have seen a “suspicious” spot on the skin, you have searched for its characteristics on the internet, and some random website has told you that you have cancer. Well, it will relieve you to know that not all lesions or tumors are cancerous .

There are numerous types of benign (non-cancerous) skin lesions that can appear anywhere on the body, but the most common type is a nevus , better known as a mole. Nevi are small skin growths, usually dark, that appear as a result of the hyper production of pigment in the skin.

It is very important to study skin lesions in detail to determine whether we are dealing with benign or malignant lesions.

How do benign skin lesions appear?

Usually, a skin lesion is considered to be benign when it has a symmetrical shape, a firm appearance and does not grow rapidly over time, moreover, these types of lesions are often stable and do not even grow. But sometimes these “normal” features can fool us into malignant lesions later on.

Some of the most common skin lesions, in addition to the nevus, are: freckles, age spots, skin tags, atypical moles or lipomas.

Freckles are small, light brown spots that appear on sun-exposed areas of skin. Having freckles or not is related to genetics, that is, while some people tan when exposed to the sun, others have freckles, since the distribution of melanin in these people is uneven. People with blonde hair or fair skin are more likely to develop them.

Also related to sun exposure we find age spots . Previously they were known as “liver spot” since they were thought to be related to liver problems, but it is now known that their appearance is associated with aging and repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as from the sun. It should be noted that they usually appear in the areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, trunk, hands or forearms.

As for the skin tag , it is a small benign tumor that usually appears in areas where the skin makes folds, such as the neck, armpits, groin or eyelids. These are small, soft, small flaps of skin that are painless and have no tendency to grow.

Another fairly common benign tumor is lipomas . These are fat deposits that develop under the skin, and are usually soft and mobile. These lipomas are more common in women, and the most common locations are the neck, back, and forearms.

Finally, we cannot forget to name the atypical moles . Basically it is a mole with different characteristics from other moles, such as a larger size, asymmetry, non-uniform color,… These specific characteristics can make you suspect skin cancer, so it is convenient to visit a a dermatologist to assess whether it is a benign or malignant mole.

How is a benign skin lesion diagnosed?

The appearance of a new mole, or changes in an existing mole (growth, darkening, inflammation, pain,…), are warning signs of possible cancerous lesions. Therefore, it is convenient to evaluate our moles from time to time to see if we find any warning signs.

Self-examination is the first step for the correct diagnosis of the skin lesion, and it can be carried out following the ABCDE criterion of melanoma , which is used to self-assess the type of skin lesion and “diagnose” it in its initial phases. The ABCDE test reports on the asymmetry, borders, colors, diameters and evolution of the skin lesion, so it can guide you as to whether the lesion is malignant or not.

Benign skin lesions can best be diagnosed by physical examination and history taking . A dermatoscopy may also be performed to view the lesion under a magnifying glass. Another method is to view the skin lesion with a black light, which is called a “Wood’s lamp” examination.

Medical history is most helpful in diagnosing skin lesions, as it informs the doctor not only of previous lesions, but also of allergic reactions, medications, incidences of sun exposure, and family history.

Other medical tests can help diagnose skin lesions. CT scans and X-rays can help diagnose the type and severity of injuries. If the lesion is suspected to be cancerous or malignant, a biopsy may be more helpful .

How is benign skin cancer treated?

Generally, benign skin lesions are not treated, unless we are dealing with benign tumors . In that case, they are usually treated with topical medications such as corticosteroids, retinoids, and antimicrobial agents.

In the event of benign lesions that may lead to cancer, or that may make you suspect cancer, such as atypical moles and lipomas, surgical removal, laser therapy, cryotherapy, or phototherapy may also be considered.

What happens if you ignore a benign skin lesion?

Benign skin lesions can become the cause of malignant tumors if they are ignored and left untreated. Whenever a skin lesion appears in any part of the body, it must be given due attention in its earliest stages to prevent malignant tumors, so that if, after doing the ABCDE exam, it shows suspicious changes, we can go to the dermatologist in time to treat it.

Malignant tumors are often mistaken for and mistreated as benign lesions , which can increase risk and lead to serious conditions. If benign skin lesions are left untreated or malignant tumors are poorly treated, they can have critical consequences of skin cancer.

In short, although benign skin lesions are harmless, if they are not paid attention to when they first appear, they can have serious consequences. In addition, a benign skin lesion can turn into a malignant tumor if it is not properly diagnosed and treated in its early stages.


Rosen, H., Schmidt, B., Lam, H. P., Meara, J. G., & Labow, B. I. (2009). Management of nevus sebaceous and the risk of basal cell carcinoma: an 18‐year review. Pediatric dermatology, 26(6), 676-681.

Telfer, N. R., Colver, G. B., & Morton, C. A. (2008). Guidelines for the management of basal cell carcinoma. British journal of Dermatology, 159(1), 35-48.

Halem M, Karimkhani C. Dermatology of the head and neck: skin cancer and benign skin lesions. Dent Clin North Am. 2012 Oct;56(4):771-90. doi: 10.1016/j.cden.2012.07.005. PMID: 23017550.

Nguyen T, Zuniga R. Skin conditions: benign nodular skin lesions. FP Essent. 2013 Apr;407:24-30. PMID: 23600336.

Luba, M. C., Bangs, S. A., Mohler, A. M., & Stulberg, D. L. (2003). Common benign skin tumors. American family physician, 67(4), 729-738.

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