A woman had a black horn growing from her thumb for 5 years and doctors had to surgically remove it

The woman had a growth in the same area removed three years before, but it had grown back.

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The woman had a growth in the same area removed three years before, but it had grown back.
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  • A 60-year-old woman who worked as a farmer in India had a 6-centimeter black growth on her inner thumb, according to a new study in BMJ Case Reports.
  • The woman had a growth in the same area removed three years before, but it had grown back.
  • This is the first reported case of a horn-type growth on a person’s thumb.
  • Doctors surgically removed the woman’s thumb growth, which they don’t expect to grow back.
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Although the much talked about cell-phone-use-causes-horns study has been largely debunked, horn-type growths are certainly possible, though rare, as proven by a recent study in BMJ Case Reports.

The study, published June 5, looked at a 60-year-old female farmer in India who had a 6-centimeter growth, which was black and curved, protruding from her inner thumb. She told doctors the growth had first formed five years ago and that she had it surgically removed three years ago, but it had since grown back.

According to the study authors, this is the first reported case of a horn growth coming from a person’s thumb. People are most likely to develop horns, which can vary in size and length, on their hands, face, ears, head, chest, and arms.

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Unlike the horns on animals, horn growths on humans don’t contain any bone. Rather, they’re filled with keratin, a type of protein that is often inside of cysts and other skin-level growths. According to Healthline, older adults are more likely to develop horns, which can be cancerous or non-cancerous. (This woman’s horn was not cancerous.)

About 50% of these growths are thought to grow on top of pre-cancerous or cancerous areas of a person’s body, while the other 50% grow on top of scars or other non-cancerous skin conditions.

Environmental factors like sun exposure may contribute to horn growth

When a person has a horn growth, they can’t spread it to others through the air or touching them. Rather, researchers believe these horns could grow due to environmental factors like radiation exposure from the sun or viral warts from the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV), but the exact cause of them is still unknown.

Doctors believe the horn of the woman in the case study, whose job requires her to spend a lot of time outside, could be a byproduct of sun exposure or constant friction in her thumb area where the horn grew. They wrote that a horn “commonly occurs on the sun-exposed area or sites of chronic irritation of the body such as face, pinna (outer ear), nose, forearm, and dorsal aspect of forearm.”

To remove the horn, doctors cut it off the woman’s hand

There aren’t any definite ways to protect against horn growth, but wearing sunscreen with a high level of SPF could help, according to Healthline.

Because of the potential for these growths to be cancerous, if a person notices one growing, they should see their doctor right away to make sure it’s not a symptom of a larger health problem. Left untreated, horns can lead to bleeding, pain, inflammation, and hardening of the skin near the growth.

To prevent these unwanted side effects, doctors cut the horn off the woman’s hand after giving her a local anesthetic. Other treatment options include freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen and scraping and burning the horn.

If doctors find a horn is cancerous, they may suggest chemotherapy or radiation to try to shrink the tumor.

In this case, the woman’s growth was benign and at her 1.5-year follow-up, doctors said there were no signs of the horn growing back.