During a recent skin check—I get them twice a year because I’m so fair-skinned and hyper aware of skin cancer after writing about it for so many years—I asked my dermatologist why I suddenly had more cherry angiomas (little red, raised moles on the skin) on my stomach. As it turns out, they can pop up more during and after pregnancy, which I hadn’t realized when I had my baby. Though most cherry angiomas are largely benign and easy to spot—with a trained eye—here’s what you should know about them.
What They Are
“Cherry angiomas, or cherries as they are commonly called, are benign—not cancerous or harmful—growths made up of very tiny blood vessels called capillaries,” says Davie, FL dermatologist Lesley Clark-Loeser, MD. “They are extremely common and occur equally in men and women. We inherit our propensity to develop them during our lifetime. Typically, individuals will notice an increase in number of their cherry angiomas in their 40s, but they can begin to appear in adolescence.”
According to the Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology textbook, they’re described as being found mostly on the trunk (chest, abdomen, pelvis and back) and they’re rarely seen on the hands, feet or face. “Cherry angiomas are the most common vascular anomalies, and it is rare for a 30-year-old to not have a few.”
Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD says the size of cherry angiomas can be anywhere from an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch in diameter. “They can grow with time, but usually don’t grow to more than the size of a pencil eraser. If they do become much larger than that, they can become irritated or bleed.” Dr. Loeser adds that although they are typically cherry-red, hence their name, they can also range in color from bright pink to a deep purple and almost black. “Any black-colored bump benefits from an evaluation by a dermatologist using a dermatoscope to establish the correct diagnosis of cherry angioma and rule out a melanoma.”
Some health conditions, such as pregnancy, can lead to an increase in cherry angiomas on the body, and there’s a chance that some people are more prone to them based on genetics. “It is something that a dermatologist or a geneticist can determine,” Dr. Schlessinger says.
Are They Dangerous?
“The lyrics ‘Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious,’ could easily be applied to cherry angiomas,” says Camden, NJ dermatologist Warren R. Heymann, MD. “Clinically, they are not serious, but understanding their pathophysiology remains a mystery. As we learn more about the genetics and molecular pathway(s) to their appearance, novel topical therapies could be in the offing.” Dr. Loeser adds that, although cherry angiomas can be numerous, they are asymptomatic. “They do not cause any pain, itching or other sensations.”
How to Treat Them
Though I don’t personally like the way mine look—they aren’t aesthetically pleasing, and many of you probably feel the same—they do not need to be treated or removed, so I wouldn’t risk the chance of scarring to get rid of them. “If someone does want to treat them, a variety of options exist,” says Dr. Loeser. “Most commonly we treat cherries with either electrocautery [essentially burning them off] or pulsed-dye and vascular lasers like Nd:YAG. These treatments are very safe and effective; however, they do not prevent new cherries from forming.” Cryosurgery—freezing the spots off with liquid nitrogen—and shave excision (cutting or “shaving” off the cherry angioma and stitching up the spot) can also be used if necessary.