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What is acanthosis nigricans?

Clinical Quiz Would you recognise this condition?

Acanthosis nigricans is often mistaken for a skin disease, but it is actually a cutaneous sign of an underlying disease or condition. Can you answer the following questions?


1. Although this is a benign condition in the majority of cases, a malignant form does exist.
True or false?

2. The condition usually affects the extensor surfaces (the part of the skin on the opposite side from a joint), sparing the body folds.
True or false?

3. Affected skin is thickened, darker and has a velvety feel.
True or false?

4. It is a condition of the elderly and is rarely seen in patients under 50.
True or false?

5. The treatment of choice is high-dose oral steroids.
True or false?


1. True: Acanthosis may be a sign of an underlying malignancy, though this is very rare.

2. False: Unlike psoriasis, which affects extensor surfaces, acanthosis usually affects the folds (flexor surfaces).

3. True: Areas are usually brown or black with ill-defined edges.

4. False: It typically occurs in patients under 40.

5. False: Treatment should be aimed at the underlying causes, which can include obesity, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome and malignancy.

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