A skin tag or “acrochordon” is a soft growth of skin. Skin tags can grow anywhere on the body. However, they often appear in areas with a lot of friction, such as in skin folds or on the genitals.
Skin tags on the scrotum are not dangerous and do not cause cancer or other diseases. However, they can be similar in appearance to more serious conditions, such as genital warts or cancerous growths. Therefore, a doctor needs to assess any skin tags to make sure they benign.
This article discusses what skin tags are and how to identify them. We also provide information on their causes and how to treat them.
Skin tags, or acrochordons, are soft, spongy growths on the skin. They may resemble a deflated balloon or a loose flap of skin.
Skin tags are usually around 2–5 millimeters in size, although they can grow to several centimeters. They are typically the same color as their surrounding skin, though the tip or outer portion may be darker.
Skin tags should not be painful, although they may cause discomfort if they catch on clothing. Those that develop on the scrotum may rub against underwear, clothing, or other parts of the body.
Around 50–60% of adults develop a skin tag at some point in their lives. Doctors do not fully understand what causes these growths to develop.
Skin tags do not necessarily indicate an unhealthful lifestyle. However, the following risk factors increase the likelihood of developing them:
- Genetics: People with a family history of skin tags may be more likely to develop these growths.
- Aging: Skin tags tend to develop between the ages of 20–70 years.
- Obesity: Obesity increases the thickness of skin folds, which increases the risk of developing skin tags.
- Diabetes or insulin resistance: According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, some experts believe that insulin resistance makes people more vulnerable to developing skin tags.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): According to a 2020 review, studies have shown a possible connection between HPV and skin tags. Some researchers propose that HPV may play a role in the development of these growths.
Skin tags can be irritating and uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous. Their main risks include:
- Irritation: A skin tag can catch on clothing, causing discomfort and irritation. On the scrotum, they may make sex uncomfortable, especially if the tag is large.
- Infection: A skin tag that catches on something can bleed or acquire an infection. Attempting to remove a skin tag also increases this risk.
- Additional growths: People who already have skin tags may develop more. While this is not harmful, some people may find it frustrating or emotionally distressing.
In some cases, a person may mistake a more harmful skin growth for a harmless skin tag.
Speak with a doctor if a skin tag:
- starts growing rapidly
- changes shape or color
- causes pain
Some of the above symptoms could be a sign of skin cancer. A person should ask a doctor to inspect any skin tags to rule out more serious conditions.
People should not attempt self-surgery to remove a skin tag from the scrotum. Doing so could result in the following:
- incomplete removal, which may result in the tag regrowing or causing a scar
- excessive bleeding
- injury to the scrotum
- contracting an infection
A doctor can quickly and safely remove a skin tag in their office using local anesthesia. This means that the person will be awake but will be unable to feel the procedure.
A doctor may remove skin tags using one of the following methods:
- excision, by using a pair of sterilized scissors to cut the tag off
- cryotherapy, which uses chemicals to freeze the tag off
- cauterization, using heat to remove the tag
A skin tag will not regrow following surgical removal. However, a person may develop new skin tags.
Skin tags are harmless. However, if they catch on skin or clothing, they can trigger pain, discomfort, or irritation.
Skin tags can sometimes resemble more dangerous growths, such as genital warts or cancerous moles. A person should speak with their doctor if their skin tag is painful, itchy, or changes in size, shape, or color. These could indicate the growth is more serious.
A doctor can safely and painlessly remove a skin tag in-office using local anesthesia. Speak with a healthcare professional about the different procedures for removing them.