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Ann Fam Med. 2007 May-Jun;5(3):202-8.

Acanthosis nigricans and diabetes risk factors: prevalence in young persons seen in southwestern US primary care practices.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA.



Evidence shows acanthosis nigricans is often associated with hyperinsulinemia and may indicate increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The purpose of this study was to determine the association of acanthosis nigricans with type 2 diabetes risk factors and disease in young persons.


We conducted a cross-sectional study in the Research in Outpatient Settings Network, a practice-based research network in southwestern US communities. Participating clinicians (N = 96) collected data on children and young adults aged 7 to 39 years seen during a 2-week sampling period. The main outcomes were the prevalence of acanthosis nigricans, type 2 diabetes risk factors (ethnicity, family history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, overweight/obesity), type 2 diabetes, and the relationships among these.


Among 1,133 patients sampled, risk factors for type 2 diabetes were common: 69% had a family history of the disease; 3% of children (aged 7 to 19 years) and 12% of adults had hypertension; 43% of children and 73% of adults were overweight or obese; and 80% were members of ethnic minorities. Acanthosis nigricans was found in 17% of children and 21% of adults. Among children and adults alike, the more type 2 diabetes risk factors that were present, the higher the prevalence of acanthosis nigricans (P <.001). The prevalence ratio for type 2 diabetes in patients with acanthosis nigricans was 1.97 (95% confidence interval, 1.18-3.27; P = .01) after controlling for age, body mass index, and the number of type 2 diabetes risk factors. Clinicians reported that the identification of acanthosis nigricans frequently led to discussions about lifestyle modification for decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Patients with acanthosis nigricans are likely to have multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Acanthosis nigricans may be an independent risk factor for this disease. Detection of acanthosis nigricans may help clinicians more rapidly identify high-risk individuals for diabetes counseling.

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