What is an Acanthoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Images By: Chepko Danil, Daniel Oines, Michaeljung
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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An acanthoma is a neoplasm, an abnormal growth, that arises in skin cells. Acanthomas are relatively rare and usually benign and are evaluated by a dermatologist when they are identified to confirm the diagnosis and collect information about the growth. If the growths become a nuisance, they can be removed in a simple outpatient procedure, although they tend to recur after removal. As with all neoplasms, there is a risk that an acanthoma could become malignant and the growth must be evaluated and watched carefully.

A classic example of an acanthoma is a clear cell acanthoma, a type of growth most commonly found on the legs. A lump of discolored tissue will arise, and may scab over or exude clear fluid. If the scab is removed, the growth tends to bleed lightly before clotting over. The lump is soft and fleshy in texture, and can be painful or irritating if it gets especially large or if it becomes caught on garments, shoes, and other accessories.


These growths are most classically benign. They will stay relatively small and will not spread to other regions of the body from the site where they arise. A simple biopsy can be used to examine some cells from the acanthoma to see if it is benign or malignant and to collect information about its origins. If the growth is benign, a wait-and-see approach may be advised, with the growth being left in situ. If the patient doesn't want the growth left in place, a dermatologist can use a mild local anesthetic to numb the site before removing the growth.

Such growths can be an aesthetic nuisance if they are on a visible area of the body. Some patients also experience irritation as a result of placement when growths rub against clothing. The site of the neoplasm can develop soreness and the growth may also leave exudate on clothing, making a mess. In these situations, removal can make the patient more comfortable.

If the growth becomes malignant, treatments can include removal and medications to kill roaming cancerous cells, along with radiology to damage rogue cells. With malignancies it is important to determine the stage and see how far the neoplasm has spread, as this information can be important for developing an effective and appropriate treatment plan. Patients should remember that cancers are named after their origins, not their location; a neoplasm made up of skin cells will always be an acanthoma, no matter where it ends up.


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Post 3

One of my cousins had a squamous acanthoma. Dealing with it was actually a pretty long process. Once she noticed it, she went to the doctor, who then did a biopsy. After the biopsy came back as benign, my cousin decided to have it removed anyway.

It grew back after the first time she had it removed! Her doctor warned her about the possibility, but I don't think she thought it would actually grow back. She ended up getting it removed again, and it's stayed away so far.

Post 2

@starrynight - I can see why someone would want to have an acanthoma removed. I've never had an acanthoma, but I did used to have two fairly large moles on my back. They were right in the middle, where a zipper would hit, and I was always getting them caught or accidentally scratching them. Finally I just got rid of them!

I read somewhere awhile ago that a lot of acanthomas occur on the legs. This would be especially inconvenient if you live in a warm area and wear shorts or dresses a lot. Or if you play a sport that requires you to wear shorts!

Post 1

I've never heard of this. It sounds fairly annoying though, so I think if I had one I would probably get it removed. I would rather get it removed and risk having it grow back than just leave it alone, you know?

Plus, if you remove the acanthoma, it can't very well turn into skin cancer. I remember reading somewhere that you're much more likely to develop skin cancer in existing moles or growths than anywhere else on your body. I feel like removing an acanthoma would probably be the best choice, because it would lower the risk of developing cancer.

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