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Ostomy Wound Manage. 2003 Apr;49(4):63-4, 65-6.

Epidermoid cancers that masquerade as venous ulcer disease.

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Wound Healing Center, University Hospital, Tamarac, Fla 33321, USA.


Many lesions originally diagnosed as venous ulcers exhibit characteristics that are strikingly similar to skin cancers and might represent sites of primary carcinomas. To ascertain the frequency of malignancy in patients previously diagnosed with venous ulcer disease, a retrospective cohort review of patients evaluated at a Wound Healing Center in Florida was conducted. Charts of all patients with IDC-9 codes for varicose veins with stasis ulcer, varicose veins with ulcer and inflammation, and venous peripheral insufficiency were reviewed. Only charts of patients with one of these diagnoses and documented clinical varicosities, hemosiderosis, brawny edema, and lesions located at the medial or lateral lower leg were included. Sixty (60) patients were identified. Of these, 20 had lesions that were clinically suspicious for epidermoid skin cancers (ie, showing raised borders and chronic scaling). Biopsies confirmed malignancy in 15 of the 60 ulcers (25%). Of these, eight were squamous cell cancers. Given the high rate of malignancies in this cohort of patients, it is postulated that primary epidermoid cancers may mimic venous ulcers in appearance, location, and symptoms; that Marjolin's ulcers are rare despite their propensity to develop in many different types of wounds; and that patients with a history of venous ulcers and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays may benefit from lesion biopsies to test for epidermoid cancers.

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