When Is a Skin Tag Biopsy Necessary? What Is Involved?

Published January 11th, 2022 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Erik Rivera
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

Skin tags are harmless, just benign skin growths. They can happen to anyone and can appear on most parts of the body.

The chances are that you will experience at least one skin tag in your lifetime. Others are prone to getting them quite often.

While they are benign and not cancerous, it’s important to know when a skin tag biopsy ‘may’ be necessary and what the procedure involves.

Like any other skin growth, most people ignore them. For the most part, that’s perfectly okay.

Because they are almost always harmless, when identified correctly, many people choose not to ‘treat’ them. That often applies if they appear in an inconspicuous location.

There are several safe skin tag removal options. Medical treatments, surgical procedures, and natural remedies are all available for Getting Rid Of Skin Tags.

If you decide to get a skin tag removed, or do it yourself at home, there’s no shortage of excellent solutions.

But, in rare cases, you may find that a skin tag must be removed by a doctor, due to the position or to have a biopsy performed.

There are several signs you should look for to ascertain if a skin tag should be checked by a dermatologist.

When Is it Necessary to Have a Skin Tag Biopsy?

Skin tags are easy to identify. Here’s a short list of characteristics:

  • A small flap of protruding skin, like a branch.
  • Connected to your body by a narrow stalk/peduncle.
  • Usually small, perhaps 2 mm to 4 mm. They can be bigger and may grow in size.
  • Unless frequently rubbed or irritated, they have a soft texture.

While a skin tag can appear anywhere on the body, they are most commonly found on the neck, under the arms, and eyelids.

While there is no concrete evidence regarding the cause of skin tags, the accepted theory is that they are usually caused by friction.

This could be skin rubbing against skin, clothing, jewelry, etc. But there are other possible causes, such as hormonal changes due to pregnancy and family genetics.

Signs of a Possible Problem

So, when should you consider a biopsy? If any of the normal characteristics of a skin tag aren’t present, or they quickly change, you should seek a doctor’s professional opinion. Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Discoloration or darkening
  • Redness, inflammation, weeping, and pain
  • Bleeding
  • Sudden growth

If you experience any of the above symptoms, your doctor may decide to remove the skin tag and send it to a laboratory for a biopsy or further testing.

The most important thing doctors check for in a skin tag biopsy is pre-cancer or cancer. This is quite rare.

If you keep touching, twisting or pinching your skin tags, you’ll likely notice one or more of these symptoms. It’s more likely that you’ll have irritated or infected the skin tag. Get this treated to reduce the inflammation and prevent infection from getting any worse.

Having a Large Skin Tag isn’t that uncommon. Get them checked and removed as they’re more likely to become a problem.

  • Note: Skin tags can turn black if they became twisted and deprived of oxygen.

Things That Look Like Skin Tags

  • Moles
  • Warts
  • Seborrheic Keratoses
  • Fatty Moles (Nevus)

What’s Involved in a Skin Tag Biopsy?

  • After numbing the area, your doctor will cut off the skin tag.
  • It will be sent to a pathologist who will look at the tissue under a microscope.
  • It can take several days to get the results. If there isn’t anything harmful, the skin tag(s) are discarded in a special waste container.
  • If there is an issue with the tissue sample, the pathologist will report their findings back to the dermatologist.
  • A treatment plan will be formulated, if necessary.

What to Expect After a Biopsy

If your biopsy results show that the skin tag was benign, there’s no reason for concern.

Your doctor ‘may’ decide to monitor other skin tags that appear. If you were showing strange symptoms, they’d want to check if the same thing happens again.

But, if a biopsy comes back negative, there is no reason to believe that you will have any problems.

With a negative biopsy, any future skin tags can be treated ‘normally.’ A skin tag should never be picked at or pulled off. This can result in bleeding and irritation, which opens up the possibility of getting an infection.

If your skin tag biopsy results show a medical problem, it’s up to you and your doctor to decide on the next steps.

Keep in mind that things like cancer are scarce in skin tag biopsies. If a medical issue does arise, seeking the right treatment right is essential.

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Recognizing the Need for a Biopsy

If skin tags appear on areas of the body we don’t pay attention to, they may go unnoticed. If there are issues with them, we may notice them a bit too late.

The earlier that a medical problem is identified, the easier it is to treat and correct.

Perform self-checks once a month. This is especially true for the ‘problem areas’ we’ve listed above, where skin tags typically occur.

If you have a skin tag, especially if you’ve been exposed to direct sunlight, keep a close eye on it/them.

Aside from some skin tags gradually growing over time, there shouldn’t be much change. Changes, especially quick ones, may indicate that something is abnormal.

Identifying these abnormalities can provide a clearer picture of when to see a dermatologist.

So, when is a skin tag biopsy necessary? The more you know about what to look for, the better your decision will be. If you notice any of the abnormal skin tag symptoms or you’re finding it difficult to identify the skin condition, it’s sensible to seek the professional opinion of a doctor.

If the skin tag result is benign, they may discuss future treatment options – such as freezing, laser removal, and cauterization.

Remember, skin tags aren’t a medical concern. But, monitoring skin growths helps to prevent more serious medical issues.