Seborrheic Warts --- Causes and Top 10
Natural Remedies
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March 23, 2013, last updated June 18, 2014

By Alison Turner, Featured Columnist and Susan Callahan, Health Editor

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our
Editorial Board.]

Seborrheic warts, sometimes called "seborrheic keratosis", are
a common skin condition. Although their prevalance varies
with your age and your skin type, up to 23% of people under
age 30 will have at least one wart on their bodies, according
to a study in 2000 from the University of Melbourne in
Australia. And, the number of these warts increases as we get
older. Are seborrheic warts a sign of cancer? Are there natural
remedies to help ward off these warts?

The word "seborrheic" (also spelled "seborrhoeic") means
that excess sebum --- an oily secretion --- is being discharged
from the sebaceous glands in your skin.

Your skin weighs between 6 and 9 pounds, has a surface area
of approximately 2 square yards, protects us from bacteria
and viruses, and regulates our body temperature – while all of
this is certainly a serious force to be reckoned with, our skin
can also show signs of weakness.   

Pores can clog, the skin surface can swell or itch, and pimples
or other bumps can pop out of nowhere despite our deepest
wishes to the contrary.  Some bumps on the skin can be
dangerous, suggesting cancer or other conditions that need
immediate attention.  Other lumps or marks indicate nothing
but a test of our own self-esteem, as we may find them
distracting or, in some cases, just plain unattractive.  

Seborrheic warts fall into the latter category --- a friendly, yet
just as undesired, lump on the skin.

Seborrheic warts usually emerge in people after the age of 40,
and are most often found on the face, chest, shoulders, or
back.  These warts can be tan, brown, or black, are slightly
raised, could appear in clusters, and sometimes look “pasted-
on” to the skin.

What can we do about them?  Seborrheic warts are benign
growths, so any treatment will be cosmetic.  Freezing the
warts off is an option for some people, as is surgery.  There
are also some associated conditions that researchers from
around the world have been busy at work discovering –
avoiding and/or treating those conditions could be a way to
decrease your risk of getting these warts.  Check out the list
below of 8 associations with seborrheic warts, as well as ways
to avoid the inconvenient little bumps as much as possible.

Control Oily Skin to Prevent Seborrheic Warts

Oily skin is a blessing and a problem. Oily skin can help
prevent wrinkles. But it can also predispose you to seborrheic
conditions such as seborrheic warts or seborrheic dermatitis.

Controlling the oil in your skin --and scalp --is one of the best
ways to prevent seborrheic warts. Daily showering or bathing
with a glycerin soap helps. Strive to leave your skin "squeaky
clean", especially if you are prone to moles and warts.

Eat a Low Carb Diet to Decrease Seborrheic Warts

Eating a low carbohydrate, low glycemic diet helps to decrease
the amount of sebum that is excreted on the surafce of your
skin, one study suggests.

Sebum is responsible for other skin conditions including acne
cradle cap in babies as well as seborrheic warts. A 2008
study from the School of Applied Sciences of  RMIT University
in Australia, discovered that 31 men under teh age of 25 who
suffered from acne saw their condition improve after they
converted to a low-glycemic diet. Essentially, a
low glycemic
diet is one that does not raise your blood sugar.

This natural remedy makes sense when you consider the
underlying components of human sebum. Human sebum is
primarily made up of triglycerides --- fat. About 57% of your
sebum consists of triglycerides, with wax esters making up
26% and a compound called squalene making up 12%. The
balance of sebum consist of a small amount (about 2.5% ) of
cholesterol and esters of glycerol. So, fat and wax are the
main building blocks of sebum. Since independent research
has found that
eating low-carbohydrate diets reduces your
triglyceride levels, it makes sense that such a diet would also
help to reduce your sebum levels, and therefore, those
troubling sebum-related skin conditions of acne and
seborrheic warts.

Can a Kidney Transplant Give You Warts?

Renal transplants, perhaps more commonly known as kidney
transplants, are one of the most common transplant
operations that take place in the United States. Most people in
the U.S. who need renal transplants are in end-stage kidney
disease because of diabetes, though the condition could arise
from other causes.   A kidney transplant comes with the same
risks of any surgery, such as infection or reaction to
medication  -- however, researchers from Singapore found a
less expected symptom in patients who have undergone renal
transplant: these patients appear to be more likely to show
seborrheic keratosis skin warts.

In 2010, Dr. Derrick Chen Wee Aw with the University
Dermatology Clinic at National University Hospital in
Singapore, along with colleague Qi Ping Chen,  investigated
the prevalence of “skin manifestations” amongst 143 renal
transplant cases.  Seborrheic keratosis was found in 60.8% of
these cases, so that SK was deemed “correlated positively”
with post-renal transplants.  

You'd think that having a kidney transplant would be enough
-- but no, our body may still have more to say.  As a reminder,
while you may not like the appearance of these warts, SK is
benign.  If you've had a kidney transplant and notice growths
emerging on your skin, you may not need to panic.

NBCIE (for short) and Seborrheic Warts.

The esteemed National Institutes of Health has an exciting
branch called the Office of Rare Diseases Research.  After
getting lost amongst its curious, and sometimes frightening,
contents, you may stumble across a condition called "non-
bullous congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma".  Never heard
of it?  

It is also referred to as NBCIE (for obvious reasons), and is a
type of genetic skin disorder that manifests as dry or scaly
skin.  Infants born with NBCIE have tight, shiny covering on
their skin, which is usually “shed” within a few weeks.  Other
symptoms include outward turning eyelids, nails that do not
grow normally,  and, according to a study out of Japan, higher
likelihood of seborrheic warts in young people.

In 2011, a team of experts from the Department of
Dermatology at Kyoto University School of Medicine in Kyoto
and Ryukyu University School of Medicine in Okinawa,  
encountered an 18 year old Japanese man who had suffered
from “fine white scales on the skin” since birth.  He was
diagnosed with NBCIE, but also reported a “nodule” that he
had first noticed when he was 17, and that had “gradually
increased in size.”  A biopsy revealed seborrheic keratosis, for
which such an early onset is “quite rare.
Seborrheic warts usually pop up in people after the age of 40
(see introduction) -- unfortunately, it seems that they might
also participate in the other bumps, pimples, and skin
problems of young people.

Seborrheic Warts Could be Genetic -- but Could our Genes
Also Reduce Our Risk of the Condition?

The American Academy of Dermatology assures that while
seborrheic warts are not contagious, they do seem to run in
families so that "people who are most likely to get these
growths have family members with seborrheic keratoses."   
Many of us, then, may end up cursing our genes for yet
another undesired trait that lies out of our control -- then
again, others of us may be thanking our ancestors for passing
along GLTSCR2, a gene that is suspected of not only
suppressing tumors, but seborrheic warts as well.

In 2010, Sun Lee with the Department of Pathology and
Medical Research Center at Kyung Hee University in Seoul,
along with other experts in Korea,  investigated the powers
and strengths of the GLTSCR2 gene (known for long as
glioma tumor-suppressor candidate region gene 2) on 69
samples of seborrheic keratosis, versus skin without these
warts.  Results showed that "GLTSCR2 may have a protective
effect on the development of SK."

We can't blame everything on our family -- sometimes we
have to swallow our pride, and thank them.

Nail Bed: A Comfy Place for Seborrheic Warts?

The term "nail bed" may bring to mind the slightly different
sound, and largely different connotation, of "bed of nails,"  
that nightmare where a floor is covered in up-turned nails and
someone forces you to walk across it.  To the contrary, nail
beds are much more ordinary affairs, as most of us have
twenty of our own in the areas of skin under our toe and
fingernails.   Nail beds may seem like a part of the body that
we don't have to worry about (after all, it's well protected by
those hard nails of ours), but research from France finds that
even nail beds aren't safe from stubborn skin conditions like
seborrheic keratosis.

In 2010, Luc Thomas with the Department of Dermatology at
Centre Hospitalier Lyon Sud in France  encountered a 58 year
old man with a year long history of a condition called
leukonychia, a genetic disorder where nails turn white
because of special cells that have developed there (when they
shouldn't).   The patient underwent surgery, at which point
seborrheic keratosis of the nail bed was diagnosed. The
physician recommended that seborrheic keratosis should be
"added to the differential diagnosis of acquired [leukonychia]."

In some ways,  the nail bed may be a great candidate for
warts, if warts must grow -- our nails would do a pretty good
job of covering them up, right?  Not necessarily.  And, if your
SK is associated with leukonychia like it was for the man
above, you'll have other visible symptoms to worry over.

Seborrheic Warts: Beauty Spots of Age?

Perhaps the way our body changes when we age is just a
matter of attitude.  Wrinkles indicate laughter, white hair is in
style, and new growths are marks of beauty -- right?  No
matter what perspective you choose to use, as we age these
changes are coming.  Right alongside other bodily changes
with age, are seborrheic warts.

In 2011, Ru-zhi Zhang and Wen-yuan Zhu with the
Department of Dermatology at The First Affiliated Hospital of
Nanjing Medical University in China  investigated five patients
with a “linear, splayed, vertical pattern of lesions on their
back, chest and abdomen,” which were diagnosed as
seborrheic keratosis.

These patients were followed for 12 to 20 years, and the
lesions “appeared to increase with age.”
Whether your cup of age is half empty or half full, that cup
shall be served.  Perhaps preparing for these changes (i.e.
knowing that they will come) will make them less of a surprise
in the next round of family photos.

Seborrheic warts -- Are We SURE They're Not Cancer?

Experts and studied have assured time and again that
seborrheic warts are not cancerous.  And don't worry -- this
remains to be true.  However, seborrheic warts may have a
loose relationship with another kind of mark on the skin, a red
scaly patch, which could be Bowen's disease -- and Bowen's
disease, if left neglected, has a 3-5% chance of developing
into skin cancer.

In 2012, a large team of specialists in Iran, led by Mehdi
Eftekhari with the Department of Pathology at the Isfahan
University of Medical Sciences,  set out to see if seborrhea
keratosis, though a benign skin tumor, could have possible
“malignant transformation.”  Data was reviewed from over
400 patients with seborrhea keratosis, and found that 1.2%
of cases were associated with Bowen’s disease.  They
conclude that while this relationship “appears to be accidental,
it must always be in mind.”

There are a lot of "ifs" and "could be's" and small percentages
of association up there -- nevertheless, why play our odds
when we could easily prevent the risk of skin cancer?  If you
have seborrheic warts and start to notice red patches on your
skin as well, consider getting checked out for Bowen's
disease.  If Bowen's disease is detected early, by the way, it is
"easily curable."

HPV and Seborrheic Warts

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually
transmitted infection, and comes in more than 40 varieties.  
HPV can infect the genital areas, mouth, and throat, yet most
people who have HPV don’t know about it  – however,
research from Spain finds that HPV could be associated with
the visible warts of seborrheic keratosis, which are harder to

In 2012, Juan C. Tardio with the University Hospital of
Fuenlabrada in Madrid  led a team of experts in a study of 40
cases of genital seborrheic keratosis (SK) and just as many
controls.  They found that 28 of these patients (70%) were
positive for HPV, versus 5% prevalence in patients without
SK.  The data shows a “pathogenic relationship between HPV
and genital SK.”

Safe sex is an immediate step to preventing HPV, as are
regular STI tests and vaccinations.  Ask your doctor for details.

10. S
eborrheic Keratosis ---Does Sun Help or Hurt?

If you are fair-skinned your mental alarms should go off on a
hot day when you’ve forgotten sun screen – not only could
you burn, but you could also be increasing your risk for skin

Researchers disagree on the role that sun exposure plays in
increasing your risks for seborrheic warts, however.  

In 2003, experts at the Department of Dermatology at Leidin
University Medical Center in The Netherlands,  assessed how
“painful sunburns and lifetime sun exposure” affected the
development of seborrheic warts, amongst other skin

Using data from over 966 people, the team found that
“neither painful sunburns nor lifetime sun exposure were
associated with an increased risk of seborrheic warts.”

But a study from Korea, also in 2003, reached an opposite
conclusion. That study, from Seoul National University College
of Medicine examined a total of 303 male volunteers aged 40
to 70.  The study found that your cumnulative lifetime sun
expsoure does in fact determine your likelihood of developing
seborrheic warts (seborrheic keratoses).

If you accumulate an avereg of 6 hours a day in the sun, you
double your risk of developing seborrheic warts. As the study
concluded: "
Lifetime cumulative sunlight exposure of more
than 6 h per day was associated with a 2.28-fold higher risk
of SKs than a sun exposure of less than 3 h per day

The takeaway from these studies is not clear. The best
approach is to moderate your sun exposure to far less than 3
hours of less a day if you fear developing skin warts or skin
damage in general.   


New studies have found that an abstract from good old
fashioned strawberries can reduce your risk of skin damage
from the UV rays of the sun. (Read more about this and other
health benefits of strawberries.)

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