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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 80  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 374-376

Multiple reactive keratoacanthomas in a patient with hypertrophic lichen planus treated with cyclosporine: Successful treatment with acitretin

Maria Letizia Musumeci, Francesco Lacarrubba, Raffaele Gibilisco, Giuseppe Micali 
 Department of Dermatology, University of Catania, Catania, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Giuseppe Micali
Dermatology Clinic, University of Catania, A. O. U. Policlinico-Vittorio Emanuele, Via Santa Sofia, 78-95123, Catania

How to cite this article:
Musumeci ML, Lacarrubba F, Gibilisco R, Micali G. Multiple reactive keratoacanthomas in a patient with hypertrophic lichen planus treated with cyclosporine: Successful treatment with acitretin.Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2014;80:374-376

How to cite this URL:
Musumeci ML, Lacarrubba F, Gibilisco R, Micali G. Multiple reactive keratoacanthomas in a patient with hypertrophic lichen planus treated with cyclosporine: Successful treatment with acitretin. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Jul 7 ];80:374-376
Available from: http://www.ijdvl.com/text.asp?2014/80/4/374/136984

Full Text


Keratoacanthoma is a common cutaneous neoplasm that most often affects males (M:F = 3:1) with skin phototype 1 and 2, and within the fifth to seventh decade of life. The real nature of the tumor is controversial; the tendency toward spontaneous regression suggests a benign course, but it may rarely metastasize. [1] For this reason and because its histopathologic pattern often resembles that of a typical squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), keratoacanthoma is now best regarded as a subtype of SCC (SCC keratoacanthoma type). [1] Although the exact etiology is unknown, sun exposure, mechanical trauma, ionizing radiations, chemical carcinogens, infections by human papilloma virus, genetic and immunological factors may all be considered to be possible etiologic factors. Finally, immunosuppressive therapy and chronic inflammation related to some dermatologic disorders such as hypertrophic lichen planus or psoriasis has been suggested to play an etiological role. [2],[3],[4]

A 64-year-old man presented with a 4-week history of pruritic papules located on the trunk and extensor surface of hands and legs. There was no family history of dermatological diseases. The patient was known to be suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, stroke and epileptic attacks. The patient denied allergies to medications and past surgical interventions. Dermatologic examination revealed multiple violaceous, hyperkeratotic papules, some of which were confluent to form plaques, located on the trunk and legs [Figure 1]a. A clinical diagnosis of hypertrophic lichen planus was confirmed by histopathological examination of a papular lesion located on the right clavicular region, showing apoptotic keratinocytes, vacuolar degeneration, pigment incontinence and marked lympho-histiocytic infiltrate [Figure 1]b. Cyclosporine was initiated at a dose of 5 mg/kg/day and after 4 weeks of treatment, hypertrophic lichen planus improved and the dosage was reduced to 3 mg/kg/day. After another 8 weeks, complete remission was observed leaving behind residual hyperpigmentation. However, around 20 nodules ranging from 0.5 to 1.2 cm in diameter, with a central keratin filled crater appeared on the legs [Figure 2]a and b. Dermatoscopy of all lesions showed the same pattern characterized by a central mass of keratin surrounded by white structureless areas, dotted and hairpin vessels. Histopathologic evaluation of a biopsy from a lesion on the right leg showed a peripheral zone formed of squamous cells with atypical mitotic figures, hyperchromatic nuclei and loss of polarity to some degree [Figure 2]c, consistent with a diagnosis of keratoacanthoma.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

The diagnosis of multiple reactive keratoacanthomas was made and acitretin 0.5 mg/kg/day was prescribed. After three months, the lesions disappeared except for a persistent nodule on the right leg which reached a size of approximately 4 cm in diameter. However, this residual lesion disappeared after another three months of treatment at the same dosage [Figure 2]d. After a six-month follow-up, no recurrence was observed.

Keratoacanthoma usually appears as a solitary lesion but multiple or generalized forms and unusual variants have been described [Table 1]. [1] Reactive keratoacanthomas have been reported as a consequence of inflammatory or infectious dermatoses (psoriasis, lichen planus, hypertrophic lichen planus, prurigo nodularis, pemphigus foliaceous, discoid lupus erythematosus, herpes zoster) and physical trauma (vaccination, radiation, thermal burns, cryotherapy, surgery, chronic scratching, tattoos).{Table 1}

Two cases of multiple keratoacanthomas associated with hypertrophic lichen planus [3],[4] and one of multiple keratoacanthomas in a psoriatic patient treated with cyclosporine [2] have been reported in the literature. The etiological factors of hypertrophic lichen planus and cyclosporine therapy were present in our patient, in whom keratoacanthomas occurred after 12 weeks of treatment. It is likely that the onset of multiple reactive keratoacanthomas was triggered by chronic inflammation and/or repeated scratching related to hypertrophic lichen planus; moreover, the immunosuppressant effects of cyclosporine may also have contributed.

Although the gold standard for the treatment of keratoacanthoma is surgical excision, oral retinoids have been successfully used for the treatment of multiple lesions, [4],[5] thus avoiding surgery. The exact mechanism of action of retinoids on keratoacanthomas is unknown: modulation of terminal differentiation of epidermal cells has been suggested to induce inhibition of keratinization. [5] Our patient had a positive response without recurrence during a six-month period of follow-up, as also noted in a previous report. [5]


1Schwartz RA. Keratoacanthoma: A clinico-pathologic enigma. Dermatol Surg 2004;30:326-33; discussion 333.
2Lain EL, Markus RF. Early and explosive development of nodular basal cell carcinoma and multiple keratoacanthomas in psoriasis patients treated with cyclosporine. J Drugs Dermatol 2004;3:680-2.
3Allen JV, Callen JP. Keratoacanthomas arising in hypertrophic lichen planus. A case report. Arch Dermatol 1981; 117:519-21.
4Paul MA, Stonecipher MR, Abernethy J, Leshin B, White WL, Jorizzo JL. Multiple keratoacanthomas in hypertrophic lichen planus: Treatment with systemic retinoids (etretinate). J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 1994;3:320-5.
5Aydin F, Senturk N, Sabanciler E, Canturk MT, Turanli AY. A case of Ferguson-Smith type multiple keratoacanthomas associated with keratoacanthoma centrifugum marginatum: Response to oral acitretin. Clin Exp Dermatol 2007;32:683-6.


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