As people age, their skin usually takes a direct hit, if not with more wrinkles then with more bumps and discolorations. Cherry angiomas, also called cherry hemangiomas, are, like their name suggests, cherry-colored flat or slightly raised dots that generally grow no larger than 1/4 inch in diameter. Although they can appear at any age, they crop up more frequently as you age. Although the name may sound frightening, cherry angiomas are not cancerous and do not turn into skin cancers.
Cherry angiomas are groups of dilated capillary blood vessels. The capillaries are the smallest of all the blood vessels. No one knows why cherry angiomas increase in frequency as people age, although thinning skin as you age may make them more noticeable. Fair-skinned individuals have more of them. Cherry angiomas appear most commonly any time from your 30s on. Cherry angiomas are not associated with any health disorders and may run in families.
Cherry angiomas have no relation to cancer. Outside of the psychological effects from their appearance, they have no medical significance. Most appear on the trunk where they are not visible to others, although they may appear on the extremities. If they bother you from a cosmetic viewpoint, they're easily removed. If they're in an area that's constantly irritated by clothing or jewelry, they may bleed.
Differentiating from Cancers
Skin cancers do not resemble cherry angiomas. Most skin cancers are irregularly shaped areas that develop or change over time. Cherry angiomas, like skin cancers, may increase in frequency, enlarge or turn a darker color as you age. Unlike skin cancers, they do not grow in an irregular pattern. If a cherry angioma does appear to grow in an irregular way, see your doctor, since you may have a skin cancer lesion unrelated to the cherry angioma in the same area. Signs of skin cancer include a sore that doesn't heal or a mole, bump or nodule that changes color, size or shape.
If a cherry angioma concerns you, having it removed is a simple procedure. Electrocautery, laser, cryotherapy, a freezing technique or surgery can be used to remove them. Removing them does not usually cause scarring. Because they are not a skin cancer, they do not need to be biopsied.