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A woman's "Velvety" palm revealed her lung cancer

The woman's hand, next to a CT image of her lungs.
Image : Denis Miyashiro, MD, and Jose A. Sanches ( New England Journal of Medicine )

A Brazilian woman's oddly textured palm led to the discovery of a much more serious underlying health problem: lung cancer.

According to a case report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 73-year-old woman had visited a local dermatologist with complaints of itchy and painful injuries to the palms. The symptoms had first appeared nine months earlier. As the doctors looked more closely at her palms, they noticed particularly sharp lines in her natural folds in her hands, along with further crossed lines and an overall "velvety appearance" on both palms.

In medical terms, the woman had a rare condition sometimes called palm plant keratoderma or acanthosis nigricans . But in the 1970s, a doctor coined a more memorable name for it, after realizing that her patient's skin looked just like a food made from the stomach of cows and sheep: tripe palm.

Unfortunately, the appearance of the triple palm is almost always linked to some cancers, usually the stomach or lung variation. In addition, the woman had smoked the equivalent of one pack a day for 30 years, and she had also had an annoying cough and weight loss. It is not surprising that a CAT scan revealed that she had lung cancer.

Tripe palm is a rare occurrence, even among people with cancer. And it is still unclear why this happens, although some scientists believe that cancer can in some way stimulate the overproduction of skin cells on the palm.

While it may disappear if a person's cancer is treated, it did not happen in this case, nor did an ointment treatment seem to help. And despite going on both chemotherapy and radiation, the woman's cancer continued to carry on with the six-month mark of her course of treatment. At the time of publication, the authors wrote that she had begun another treatment, but gave no other updates on her condition.

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