‘Tripe palms’ are linked to cancer ‘95% of the time’

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“Tripe palm”, so-called because of the visual appearance of the condition, is rarely encountered by healthcare providers. There are few cases of the condition reported in medical literature, but a great portion of existing cases have been linked back to cancer. When the skin change appears solely on the palms of the hands it could be signalling lung cancer, research suggests.

WebMD explains: “Tripe palm is a rare condition that causes the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet to become thick and velvety white.

“The texture of the skin looks like a boiled tripe. Also called acanthosis palmaris; 95 percent of the time, it is linked to cancer.

“If only the palms are involved is it likely lung cancer.”

One case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed a 73-year-old woman who first presented to a dermatology clinic with “pruritic [itchy] and painful lesions” on her hands.

The patients had lost a significant amount of weight in the space of four months and reported a heavy history of smoking spanning 30 years.

During the examination of her hands, doctors spotted “sharp” demarcations in the lines of her palms.

They also noted a “velvety appearance of the palmar surfaces and ridging of the skin”, which was diagnosed as tripe palm.

Further tests revealed an irregular nodule in the left upper lobe of the patient’s lungs and enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes.

This was later diagnosed as adenocarcinoma, a cancer that forms in the glandular cells of the body, found in the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate and colon.

Typically, patients experience a thickening of the skin on the palms of the hands which accentuates a change in skin texture.

This gives the palms a velvety texture which resembles the stomach lining of some animals, known as tripe.

The thickening of the skin on the palms and feet sometimes gives off a yellow hue to the skin in some cases.

Researchers believe the skin change may precede a cancer diagnosis, or develop as the malignancy advances.

Visual DX explains: “Skin changes typically arise prior to the cancer diagnosis and may be seen at any point during the clinical course.”

Although the apparatus of the disease is poorly understood, it’s been theorised it may be linked to the overproduction of certain growth factors.

“The exact mechanisms through which tripe palms develop is unknown. It is thought that the cancer cells secrete growth factors [….] that cause the growth of skin cells […],” states DermNet.

Cancers that have frequently been linked to triple palms include lung cancer and gastric cancer, and less frequently breast cancer, and genitourinary tract cancers.

According to DermNet, the condition has also been associated with non-cancerous conditions such as bullous pemphigoid, psoriasis, and exfoliative dermatitis.

Though there’s a high likelihood of malignancy in individuals with tripe palms, it’s important to note the condition is exceptionally rare.

Researchers advise anyone who notices skin changes persist for longer than two weeks to seek medical care.

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