A MAN was left with a five-inch ‘dragon’ horn sticking out of his back – after he ignored the signs of skin cancer for three years.
The 50-year old patient, who has not been named, developed a bizarre lump known as a giant cutaneous horn made up of the same protein that forms hair, skin and nails.
And the patient was forced to have urgent surgery to have the growth removed after he finally went to hospital – and medics discovered it was the result of skin cancer.
Doctors at Countess of Chester Hospital are now sharing grim photos of the ‘horn’ – in a bid to urge people not to delay their medical treatment.
Dr Agata Marta Plonczak and her colleagues wrote in the British Medical Journal Case Reports that the man had spent three years with the lump growing on his back.
By the time he saw a doctor, the horn measured 5.5inches (14cm) in length and 2.3inches (5.8cm) in width.
Medics quickly performed tests which confirmed a type of cancer called a squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, at the base of the horn, which caused the horn to grow.
They were shocked to discover the man’s cancer hadn’t spread to other parts of his body, considering he had never received treatment.
SCCs usually begin on areas exposed to the sun – but the man said he did not sunbathe and had no family history of skin cancer.
The horn was removed from the patient’s back and the gaping hole left behind was reconstructed with a skin graft from his thigh.
Dr Plonczak wrote: “We report a rare case of an extremely large well-differentiated SCC that was neglected by a patient living in a developed country with access to free healthcare.
“This highlights that despite current public skin cancer awareness and rigorous healthcare measures, cases like this can still arise and slip through the net.”
Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is a cancer of the cells in the outer layer of the skin.
It is the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK and occurs when DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet radiation or other damaging agents trigger abnormal changes in the squamous cells.
According to the British Skin Foundation, SCCs can vary in their appearance, but most usually appear as a scaly or crusty raised area of skin with a red, inflamed base.
SCCs can be sore or tender and they can bleed but this is not always the case.
What is a cutaneous horn?
A cutaneous horn is a type of lesion or growth that appears on the skin.
It’s made of keratin, which is the same protein that forms hair, skin and nails.
The growth may look like a cone or horn, and it can vary in size.
The name comes from the growth sometimes resembling an animal’s horn.
Many cutaneous horns are benign or noncancerous, but they can also be precancerous or cancerous.
The exact cause of a cutaneous horn is often unknown.
Exposure to radiation from the sunlight may be one of the causes. Another possible cause is having viral warts caused by human papillomavirus.
It’s estimated that about half of cutaneous horns appear on top of, or because of, skin cancer or precancerous skin lesions.
Others may appear on top of, or because of, burn scars or other noncancerous skin conditions.
Older adults, especially ones between the ages of 60 and 70, are at a higher risk of developing cutaneous horns.
Both men and women can get these growths, but men are more likely to have cancerous lesions.
People with fair or light skin are also at a higher risk of having cutaneous horns.
Cutaneous horns aren’t contagious, so they can’t spread to other people.
SCC can occur on any part of the body, but they are more common on sun exposed sites such as the head, ears, neck and back of the hands.
The vast majority of SCCs are low risk skin cancers and can be cured.
A small number can recur locally and/or spread to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.