Current Understanding of Seborrheic Keratosis: Prevalence, Etiology, Clinical Presentation, Diagnosis, and Management

J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Oct;14(10):1119-25.


Seborrheic keratosis (SK) is among the most common cutaneous lesions, affecting some 83 million Americans. Biologically benign, SK lesions do not require removal for medical reasons unless histologic confirmation of the clinical diagnosis is required or the lesions are traumatized and/or become symptomatic. These macular or popular pigmented lesions are often of cosmetic concern to patients. In addition, their natural history of gradually increasing in size, thickness, and/or pigmentation often serves as the impetus compelling patients to present to a dermatologist for evaluation and skin cancer screening; SK is diagnosed and managed primarily by dermatologists. Data regarding SK prevalence and management from a survey of 594 practicing, board-certified dermatologists are summarized herein: Dermatologists report they diagnose an average of 155 patients per month with SK. Among SK patients presenting to dermatologists, 33% have more than 15 SK lesions and 67% have 15 or fewer SK lesions. On average, dermatologists treat 43% of their SK patients to remove lesions. Cryosurgery is the most common removal method. Other commonly employed removal methods include shave excision, electrodessication, curettage or a combination of these. While these procedures can be used to remove SK lesions effectively, each has potential drawbacks and careful patient selection is required to optimize cosmetic results particularly in skin of color patients and patients with thick or numerous lesions. While there is great interest from both patients and providers in a topical non-invasive treatment for SK, no effective topical therapeutic agent has been developed, and this remains an area of unmet need.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cryosurgery / methods
  • Curettage / methods
  • Dermatology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Keratosis, Seborrheic / diagnosis
  • Keratosis, Seborrheic / epidemiology
  • Keratosis, Seborrheic / pathology*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology