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Tumors of the Nails

By Wingfield E. Rehmus, MD, MPH, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia

Noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) tumors can affect the nail unit, causing a dystrophy. Noncancerous tumors include myxoid cysts, pyogenic granulomas (see Pyogenic Granulomas), and glomus tumors. Cancerous tumors include Bowen disease (an early form of skin cancer—see Bowen disease (intraepidermal squamous cell carcinoma)), squamous cell carcinoma (see Squamous Cell Carcinoma), and malignant melanoma (see Melanoma). When doctors suspect cancer, they do a biopsy and may recommend complete removal of the tumor as soon as possible.

The Hutchinson sign is a black discoloration that extends to the area around the nail, such as the cuticle or nail fold (the fold of hard skin at the sides of the nail plate where the nail and the skin meet.). This sign may mean there is malignant melanoma in the nail bed (the soft tissue underneath the nail plate that attaches the nail to the finger). When this sign is present, doctors may do a biopsy.

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