All in the family

Skin tags are mostly caused by hereditary genetic factors.

For 58-year old housewife Leela*, practically everyone in her family has the condition.

"My two sisters, two brothers and mother have it. My skin tags are found around the neck area only. Fourteen years ago I had laser treatment to have them removed. It cost me more than RM1,000 (S$497) as it was quite costly then.

"Since then, they never came back, until very recently, when a few started appearing on my neck again," says Leela.

Mastura*, director of a non-governmental organisation, believes that it's in the genes. In her family of six, four of them, including herself, have skin tags.

"My grandfather had it and so did my aunties. For me, it's considerably mild, just a few fine spots on my face," says Mastura, who is in her 40s.

She says that her elder sister has quite a number on her face and neck. They were removed via laser four years ago by a beautician.

Before that, her sister would use a scarf to cover her neck because she was worried some people might be startled by her appearance.

The spots turned black after the treatment and dropped off.

"It's like the main topic of conversation in our family. Once in a while, someone would notice, 'Hey, look! That one's grown quite big,'" reveals Mastura with a laugh.

Her sister went through another round of laser treatment recently as new skin tags appeared. This time, a skin specialist was consulted.

Communications executive Shereen*, 37, is quite sure that genetics play a strong role as her father and three siblings have skin tags too.

She also feels that racial make up plays a part, and that the Chinese are more prone to it.

"All of us have it on our faces and a few on the neck area. Ten years ago, they started appearing on my face. My sister had them removed about seven years ago.

"But they came back so we both decided to see a dermatologist to have them removed. With the tags gone, I feel I look younger. The laser treatment cost RM350," she says.

Accounts manager Jackie*, 39, was six months pregnant with her first child when she noticed the skin growths on the neck and under her armpits.

"I was a bit worried at first and it was not too flattering. When I asked around, I was told that it was quite common for skin tags to appear during pregnancy due to hormonal imbalance. After I delivered my baby, they disappeared after a while," says Jackie, who adds that she didn't have skin tags when she had her second child.

*All names have been changed.