What Is a Dermatofibroma?

A dermatofibroma is one of the common benign tumors that occur more often in women than men.  As they tend to grow slowly, often they are discovered after  trauma causes them to bleed or become painful, such as after they are cut by accident during shaving.  Below we explore this condition and how it is treated.

Also known as a superficial benign fibrous histiocytoma, a dermatofibroma often is described by patients as a hard mole.  Shaped like a dome, they can be dark brown or more lightly pigmented colors such as pink or red, which is what causes them to be mistaken for other common skin conditions.  Unlike a mole, however, when a dermatofibroma is pinched, it dimples since it is connected to the skin underneath.  When a mole is pinched, it becomes more elevated from the skin surface.

Since dermatofibromas are raised areas on the skin surface, they are easily traumatized by shaving and other activities that can nick the skin.  While some can grow to be about the size of a peach pit, most tend to be small, measuring between 3 and 10 millimeters wide.  They are caused by an overgrowth of the dermis layer cells.  Generally this happens after there has been minor trauma to the skin such as a bug bite, abrasion, or a prick to the skin.  They are not hereditary.

A doctor can diagnose a dermatofibroma visually during a physical examination.  No special testing is required unless there are concerns that the area in question may be cancerous and therefore not a dermatofibroma.  Treatment is not necessary unless it is causing discomfort or is in an area in which it continues to receive trauma that causes bleeding or pain.  Some people opt to have them removed for cosmetic reasons as they will not disappear on their own.

For those who opt to have a dermatofibroma removed, there are multiple ways this can be done including cryosurgery.  In this method, a liquid cooling agent (most commonly liquid nitrogen) is used to freeze and destroy the top part of the growth.  Following treatment the dermatofibroma will not be noticeable, although a white mark may be left on the skin, but cryosurgery is not a permanent treatment.  Over time the growth will reappear, though often it will be smaller than the original size.  The treatment can be repeated on the regrowth.

Another method of dermatofibroma removal is excision surgery.  This is generally performed with local anesthesia as an outpatient procedure.  Since the growth is deeper than it may seem, the removal will leave a scar.  By following a doctor’s instructions on how to care for the area post-surgery, the extent of scarring may be limited.  Exposure to UV light can worsen scars, therefore it is key to protect the area from the sun.

As with any surgical treatment, it is important to consider the benefits as well as risks such as scarring.  A consultation with your physician can help you to decide whether to remove a dermatofibroma.

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