Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Bizarre Images of Cutaneous Horns

If you thought that people could only have horns growing out of their body in science fiction movies, think again. Many people do not know that some people can literally grown horn-like projections out of their body. The reason many people are unaware of this is because the stigma associated with the condition leads people to try to conceal it from others with clothing, bandages, or becoming a recluse until they can be surgically removed. When horn-like structures grow out of people’s skin, they are referred to as cutaneous (skin) horns and sometimes referred to as Devil’s horns. Below is a picture of a 69-year old lady with a 17-cm cutaneous horn protruding from her forehead. This is why she is known as The Unicorn Lady.

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Cutaneous horns are a mysterious medical condition but they may be caused by radiation exposure since they occur more in sunlight exposed areas (face, hands). They could arise from burn scars and some have reported an association with a common disease known as human papillomavirus (HPV). Probably the largest cutaneous horn was the one that was on Madame Dimanche, a French woman from the 19th century whose forehead horn measured 9.8 inches (24.9 cm). It was successfully removed via surgery. A wax model of her head was taken before surgery and is pictured here:

Cutaneous horns are benign in 80% of cases but malignant (cancerous) in 20% of cases. Pain at the bottom of the horn usually indicates malignancy. Believe it or not, these horns can also be present on the penis and when this happens, it presents almost double the risk of cancer. Here is one example of a cutanoeus horn growing out of a 102-year-old woman’s head in China. As of last year, this horn measured 10-cm in length.

Cutaneous horns are made of keratin, which is the same substance that hair and fingernails are made of. While the horns can be removed with a sterile razor, the underlying condition still needs treatment.
The most severe case, however, is that of The Tree Man, whose real name is Dede Koswara and lives in Indonesia. His body has been taken over by warty growths and cutaneous horns because of a genetic defect that prevents his body from containing them:

As you can see, the horns also took over the feet and toes:

Related blog entry: Lionel the Lion Man: A Case of Hypertrichosis 


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