Cherry Angiomas: What Causes Them and How to Treat Them

A cherry angioma is a red skin lesion that increases in frequency with age. Find out what causes it and how to treat it.

It sounds like something good to eat, but a cherry angioma is actually a cluster of tiny blood vessels that appears on the surface of the skin. These blood vessels coalesce to form papules which are usually quite visible on fair skin.  They are most commonly seen on the legs and the trunk and can become quite large in some cases. Although they can be seen in people as young as age twenty, they’re more common in older people and may increase in frequency with age.

Because cherry angiomas can be quite obvious with their bright cherry red color, some people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. They rarely cause symptoms, except possibly bleeding when bumped against a hard surface, so there’s really no medical reason to have them taken off. Cherry angiomas aren’t usually associated with an increased risk of cancer or other health conditions, although when a large number of these lesions develop at once, suspicion of an underlying malignancy should be higher. In rare cases, appearance of clusters of cherry angiomas can be associated with an undiagnosed cancer.

What causes a cherry angioma to develop? Although these lesions are quite common, the exact cause is unknown. Their appearance appears to be associated with fluctuations in hormone levels since cherry angiomas are more common in pregnant women and frequently regress after delivery of the baby. They also occur at a high frequency in people who are exposed to certain types of chemicals such as mustard gas.

Should a cherry angioma be removed? The cherry red papules, if large, can be quite visible on the skin surface especially if the surrounding skin is light in color. For this reason, some people choose to have them removed. In some cases, a cherry angioma can bleed which can be another indication for removal. The best way to remove a cherry angioma is through laser surgery which is effective and causes minimal damage to the surrounding skin. Electrodesiccation, which involves using a needle and electric current to remove the lesion, can also be used.

It’s always best to get a professional medical opinion rather than trying to self-diagnose a cherry angioma. In rare cases, a malignant melanoma or other skin cancer can be mistaken for a cherry angioma with serious repercussions. Is there a way to prevent future ones? Unfortunately, the number may increase with age regardless of how you treat your skin. Wearing a sunscreen may not prevent cherry angiomas, but they can help to prevent other age-related skin changes.

The bottom line? Isolated cherry angiomas are usually nothing to worry about and shouldn’t be removed unless they bleed or are cosmetically disfiguring.

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