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Dermatol Pract Concept. 2013 Apr 30;3(2):3-7. doi: 10.5826/dpc.0302a02. Print 2013 Apr.

Cutaneous horns: clues to invasive squamous cell carcinoma being present in the horn base.

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School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.



Cutaneous horns usually develop on a keratinocytic base with the histopathology on a spectrum ranging from benign keratosis through to invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Some features of horns are easily identified using dermatoscopy.


To investigate if specific clinical or dermatoscopy features of horns correlate with the histopathology in the base of the horn.


Consecutive horn cases (n=163) were assessed prospectively in vivo for horn height, terrace morphology and base erythema using a Heine Delta 20 dermatoscope. Cases with potentially confounding influences were excluded. A history of horn pain or pain on palpation was also recorded.


Benign keratosis (n = 49), actinic keratosis (n = 21), SCC in situ (n = 37) and invasive SCC (n = 56) were recorded. An invasive SCC presenting as a horn as most likely to have a height less than the base diameter, 66% (37/56). Compared to the other study entities, invasive SCC tends to have less terrace morphology (P<0.05), a higher incidence of base erythema (P<0.05) and more pain (P<0.01).


Data categories did not include anatomic site or horn growth rates. Excision selection bias favored the incidence of invasive SCC.


Horns presenting on an invasive SCC base are more likely to have a height less than the diameter of the base, not to have terrace morphology, to have an erythematous base and to be painful.


cutaneous horn; pain; squamous cell carcinoma

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