Hemangiomas, which are benign skin growths, occur most often in children, but they frequently affect adults as well. These growths are fairly common in young children but usually begin to fade before or during the preteen years. It is less common to see hemangiomas in adults who are younger than 40 years old. After the age of 40, however, they are seen with more frequency, and people over 70 are the most likely to develop them.
When a person has a hemangioma, he has a skin growth that results from too many blood vessels growing in one area. They create a formation of bumpy or spongy skin that appears red or purplish and often develops on the affected person's torso. They are often referred to as strawberry hemangiomas when they affect the surface of a child’s skin and deep hemangiomas when they are significantly imbedded in the skin. Though they are the same type of skin growth, they often referred to as cherry hemangiomas when affecting adults. Hemangiomas develop in people of all races but are more noticeable in those with fair complexions.
The hemangiomas that commonly affect adults are usually smaller than those that develop in children. Many of these growths are no larger than a dot, mole, or liver spot. They can appear very large, however, when they grow in groups, creating the appearance of large masses rather than individual growths. Hemangiomas can also grow in groups when affecting children, but they often appear on more of an adult's body than a child's.
Scientists are not 100 percent sure of what causes these skin growths to form. For children, there may be a link between proteins developed while they are in the womb and hemangiomas. The cause of hemangiomas in adults can be even more of a mystery. Some theories include minor abnormalities involving genes and exposure to chemical compounds. Even if they are not caused by genetic abnormalities, there is some evidence that they are more likely to recur in families.
The presence of hemangiomas in adults doesn't mean the affected people have cancer, and cancerous cells do not usually form in this type of growth. They can bleed, however, especially when irritated by friction, and some people seek treatment to end the bleeding or for cosmetic reasons. Doctors sometimes burn or freeze these growths off, though laser removal can be effective as well. In addition, injection with a type of hormone medication referred to as a corticosteroid may help treat some hemangiomas in adults.