Skin Cancer Caused Enormous 'Dragon Horn' to Form on Man's Back

A five-inch-long "drag horn" was discovered growing out of a man's back as a result of untreated skin cancer.

The unnamed 50-year-old man visited a hospital in the U.K. complaining of a lesion which had been grown on his back for three years, according to a case detailed in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Doctors examined the man's back and found an "enormous" horn, they wrote. It was 5.5 inches long and 2.3 inches wide.

The patient underwent surgery to have the tissue removed. Surgeons took a skin graft from his thigh to patch up the area on his back where the protrusion once sat.

The man was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma is a rarer form of skin cancer which can be more serious. According to the authors of the report titled Dragon horn SCC, more cases of squamous cell carcinoma are being diagnosed both the U.S. and Europe.

However "most cases are diagnosed and treated early before becoming 'dragon horns'," the doctors wrote. They removed the growth in an operation, with doctors using a skin graft from his thigh to cover the "soft tissue defect" left by the horn.

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An image of what doctors described in the journal, BMJ Case Reports as a "gigantic keratotic horn over back." Keratotic means a growth of keratin on the skin. BMJ Case Reports

People with light skin are more likely to develop this form of cancer, as well as those who have had exposure to sunlight and other forms of ultraviolet radiation, the viral infection human papillomavirus (HPV), and substances such as arsenic. Individuals who suffer from chronic scarring conditions are also more susceptible, and people where cancers run in the family.

In this case, the doctors noted, the man had not had any significant sun exposure, had no family history of skin cancer, and was not immunosuppressed.

"This highlights that despite current public skin cancer awareness and rigorous healthcare measures, cases like this can still arise and slip through the net," the authors wrote.

The condition takes its name from the flat squamous cells in the upper part of the skin's top layer, called the epidermis, where this form of cancer starts. Squamous cell carcinoma makes up for around 20 percent of skin cancer cases.

According to the American Cancer Society, squamous cell cancers are more likely than what are known as basal cell cancers to grow into deep layers of the skin, and also spread around the body.

Squamous cell cancers, which can usually be removed, usually first show up as a firm, pink lump with a crust or rough surface. Sometimes this can form in a spiky horn, as evidenced by this case.

The lump can feel tender when touched. It is also prone to bleeding and may form into an ulcer.

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A stock image shows a dermatologist examining in a patient, untreated to the case study. Getty