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Acanthosis nigricans

  • Overview


    Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition that results in dark, thick, and velvety patches in areas where the skin folds or creases. It commonly appears in the neck, groin, and armpits. This condition primarily affects individuals who are obese. However, in rare cases, it could also indicate cancer in an internal organ, such as the liver or stomach.

    The skin’s usual colour and texture can be restored by addressing the underlying cause of acanthosis nigricans.

  • Symptoms


    If you notice dark, thick, velvety skin in body folds and creases, particularly in the armpits, groin, and back of the neck, you may have acanthosis nigricans. This condition develops slowly and may cause itchiness, skin tags, and an odour.

  • When to see a doctor


    It’s essential to consult your healthcare provider if you notice any sudden changes in your skin, as an underlying condition may require treatment.

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  • Causes


    Acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition characterised by dark, velvety patches on the skin, has been associated with several factors. Among these factors, insulin resistance is a common cause in individuals with acanthosis nigricans. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas responsible for regulating sugar in the body. Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes less responsive to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. It has also been linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age.

    Furthermore, certain drugs and supplements, such as high-dose niacin, birth control pills, and corticosteroids like prednisone, may contribute to developing acanthosis nigricans. High-dose niacin, for instance, is known to cause hyperpigmentation, a condition that darkens the skin, while birth control pills and corticosteroids have been associated with insulin resistance.

    Lastly, acanthosis nigricans has been linked to some types of cancer, including lymphoma and stomach, colon, and liver cancers. Although the exact mechanism of how cancer causes acanthosis nigricans is not yet fully understood, it is believed that the cancer cells produce substances that stimulate the growth of skin cells, leading to hyperpigmentation and thickening of the skin.

    Therefore, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause of acanthosis nigricans, whether insulin resistance, medication use, or cancer, to treat the condition effectively. Consulting a healthcare professional is recommended for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Risk factors


    Individuals who are obese are at a greater risk of developing acanthosis nigricans than those who are not. This risk is even higher for individuals with a family history of the condition, particularly if they have obesity and type 2 diabetes.

  • Prevention

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023