Major dermatologic malignancies encountered in a teaching hospital surgical department in South Nigeria

Maurice E Asuquo, Ogbu Ngim, Gabriel Ugare, Joshua Omotoso, Godwin Ebughe
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2008, 9 (6): 383-7

BACKGROUND: Dermatologic malignancies are among the most common form of cancer. However, dark-skinned individuals of African descent are said to be far less likely than fair-skinned individuals to develop skin cancer. Significant differences in the pattern of skin malignancy have also been observed in different regions of Africa.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the pattern, site incidence, and outcome of treatment of major histologically diagnosed dermatologic malignancies encountered in a teaching hospital surgical department in South Nigeria.

METHODS: We evaluated patients with histologic diagnoses of major dermatologic malignancies that presented to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria between January 2000 and December 2004 and compared our findings with the total number of patients diagnosed with malignancies at the same hospital over the same period. This hospital is located in South Nigeria.

RESULTS: There were 63 histologically diagnosed dermatologic cancers, comprising 10% of all histologically diagnosed cancers at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital during the study period. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was the most common (n = 23; 37%), followed by Kaposi sarcoma (KS) [n = 17; 27%]. Other malignancies included basal cell carcinoma (BCC), melanoma, and dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) [n = 5; 8% each]. The peak age varied with the type of cancer but none was found in patients in the first decade of life. The lower limb was the most frequent site of SCC (Marjolin ulcer), KS, and melanoma, while BCC was most common on the head, neck, and upper limb. Excision surgery resulted in healing of all cases of BCC. Some patients with SCC and melanoma presented late for curative surgery. Some African KS tumors were chemosensitive. There was a high recurrence rate for DFSP.

CONCLUSION: This study revealed a similar pattern of dermatologic malignancies in South Nigeria compared with other parts of Africa but also some regional differences (e.g. in Kano, melanoma ranked second). The pattern was, however, in sharp contrast to that seen with Caucasian populations, in whom 80% of the lesions are BCC and 20% are SCC. Public education, implementation of preventive strategies, and early presentation of disease would improve outcomes of dermatologic malignancies in Nigeria.

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