Seborrheic Keratosis / Lentigos

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Description This chapter describes dermoscopy of seborrheic keratosis and solar lentigo
Author(s) N. N.
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Status update March 25, 2023
Status by Ralph P. Braun


Seborrheic keratoses are benign epithelial lesions that can appear on any part of the body with the exception of the mucous membranes, palms, and soles. The lesions can be found on sun-exposed or covered areas usually of people older than 30 years. Clinically, early seborrheic keratoses are light to dark brown oval macules with sharply demarcated borders (solar lentigo). As the lesions progress, they transform into plaques with a waxy or stuck-on appearance[1]. The surfaces of these lesions have a warty and keratotic appearance. Often, the lesions have follicular plugs scattered over their surfaces. The size of the lesions varies from a few millimeters to a few centimeters. Histologically, there are several distinct forms of seborrheic keratoses. In general, the lesions are characterized by papillomatous epidermal hyperplasia of uniform and monotonous keratinocytes and the presence of pseudocysts. The diagnosis of most seborrheic keratoses is straightforward. However, some seborrheic keratoses, especially the deeply pigmented variant, can simulate malignant melanomas. Thin, early lesions have moth-eaten borders and fingerprint-like structures as described for solar lentigines. Thicker pigmented seborrheic keratoses have the typical dermoscopy features as follows [2]:

Seb k schematic.jpg

Dermoscopic features

Milia-like cysts

Milia-like cysts are white-to-yellow, round structures that appear very bright when contrasted with their dark brown or black surroundings. The presence of multiple milia-like cysts in pigmented seborrheic keratoses conjures up an image of “stars in the sky.” Milia-like cysts can also be seen in non-pigmented seborrheic keratosis and other lesions such as basal cell carcinoma and melanocytic lesions including congenital nevi and melanoma. In melanocytic lesions, the cysts appear “starry” (small, bright and sharp), while in seborrheic keratosis they are “cloudy” (larger and hazier in appearance). Histologically, the cysts correspond to intraepidermal, keratin-filled cysts. It is important to be aware that milia-like cysts are more conspicuous with non-polarized dermoscopy and are often difficult to visualize with polarized dermoscopy.

Milia like cysts.JPG

Comedo-like openings

Comedo-like openings are round to ovoid craters that have black or brown comedo-like plugs. Histologically, they correlate with keratin-filled invaginations of the skin surface.

Comedo like opening.JPG

Fissures and ridges

Fissures (sulci) are comedo-like openings, which are not round but rather linear and appear as dark brown to black linear to curvilinear structures within the lesion. The presence of numerous fissures and ridges can result in the formation of network-like structures or result in a cerebriform pattern. Histologically, they represent deep invaginations of the epidermis, filled with keratin.

Seb Ker sulci.jpg

Network-like structures

Interlacing fissures and ridges can create an appearance of network-like structures. The quality of the grid of network-like structures in a seborrheic keratosis differs from the network grid seen in melanocytic nevi by being significantly larger. However, at times the network-like structure in a seborrheic keratosis can look very similar to that of a nevus. Clinical examination of the lesion via side lighting can make the ridges more evident, thereby making it easier to differentiate network-like ridges in seborrheic keratosis and pigment network in melanocytic lesions.

Cerebriform pattern

Multiple fissures (sulci) and ridges (gyri) may produce a cerebriform pattern, where the structures resemble sulci and gyri of the brain (brain-like appearance). These features are generally associated with an acanthotic seborrheic keratosis.


Fat fingers are linear and wide dermoscopic structures corresponding to ridges. They often appear as short sausage-shaped structures. Their colors vary from tan/brown, blue to hypopigmented. They are named fat-fingers because their shapes can resemble a straight finger (linear), bent finger (curvi-linear), or finger tip (oval-circular).

Seb Ker Fat Fingers.jpg

Sharply demarcated borders

As known from clinical examination, seborrheic keratosis often has sharply demarcated borders.

Typical hairpin blood vessels

Some seborrheic keratoses are associated with hairpin vessels. These hairpin vessels can appear as perfect “U”-shaped vessels of as “U”-shaped vessels that are twisted upon themselves. Typical hairpin blood vessels have a whitish halo around the blood vessel corresponding to the surrounding keratin. It is important to note that some melanomas can have hairpin vessels, but these vessels generally do not have the surrounding white halo but rather have a pink halo. Similar hairpin vessels on a pink background can be seen in irritated seborrheic keratosis.

Wobble test

This is a dynamic test that can only be performed with a contact dermoscopy device. The test is performed as follows: once the contact plate of the dermoscope is firmly pressed down (pressure in vertical direction) against the lesion, it is then moved slightly back and forth in the horizontal plane (parallel to the skin surface). Seborrheic keratosis will appear to stick to the glass plate and move en bloc with the movement of the dermoscopic face plate. In other words, they will slide back and forth. In contrast, nevi will not move en bloc but, rather roll back and forth. In other words, intradermal nevi will wobble. Knowledge of the above-described dermoscopic features and patterns seen in seborrheic keratosis will often prove valuable in differentiating seborrheic keratoses from other lesions, including melanoma. However, irritated or traumatized seborrheic keratoses can mimic melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma. In these cases, the history of trauma or the presence of typical criteria for seborrheic keratoses in another part of the lesion might be comforting. However, it is important to remember that skin cancer can develop within a seborrheic keratosis, and thus a biopsy is justified for atypical appearing seborrheic keratosis.


  1. An Atlas of Dermoscopy, Second Edition. Marghoob A. et al. CRC Press; 2012.
  2. Braun et al.: Dermoscopy of pigmented seborrheic keratosis: a morphological study. Arch Dermatol 2002;138:1556-60. PMID: 12472342.
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