Acanthosis Nigricans – Symptoms, causes and risk factors

Acanthosis Nigricans

This is a skin condition in which areas of your body folds and creases are velvety or dark discolored. When your skin is affected with acanthosis nigricans, then it becomes thickened. [1] In the most cases when you are affected with acanthosis nigricans, then your neck, groin and armpits are affected. People who suffer from diabetes or who are obese have increased chances of getting acanthosis nigricans. Children who develop acanthosis nigricans have increased chances of getting diabetes type two [1]. Also there are some cases when this condition is a sign of a cancerous tumor in some internal organ such as liver or stomach [2]. There is not specific treatment that is available for this condition. There are some treatments for the underlying conditions which can restore some of the normal texture and color to the affected areas of your skin. When people suffer from this disease, then they usually think that they have touched something which has caused skin discoloring. If you are trying with vigorous scrubbing to rid of this condition, then you should know that it will not work. What is important for you to know is that this condition is not harmful or contagious. In some cases it means that you have some underlying condition that needs to be treated by your doctor. If you have thicker or darker skin on some areas, then you should visit your dermatologist as soon as possible.

Symptoms of acanthosis nigricans

The only signs that you have acanthosis nigricans are the changes of your skin. When you suffer from this condition, then you can notice thickened, velvety and dark skin in your creases and body folds [1]. Typically you can notice these signs in the back of your neck, groin and armpits. When you have this condition, then the changes of your skin in the most cases are appearing in slow way. Also there are some cases when the affected skin is itching or it has an odor. If you have noticed changes in your skin, then you must talk with your doctor. Also you should talk with your doctor if you have noticed that the changes in your skin have appeared suddenly. This may mean that you have some underlying condition which needs some kind of treatment. If you have noticed changes in your skin, then you must talk with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to doctor who is specialized in hormone problems or skin disorders. You should tell your doctor if someone from your family had this condition. Also you should tell him if you suffer from diabetes. Also if you had problems with your adrenal, thyroid glands or with your ovaries, then you should tell your doctor.

Acanthosis NigricansCauses of acanthosis nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans can be caused by many factors such as

  • Cancer: When the cancerous tumor begins to grow in an internal organ, then this results in acanthosis nigricans. Also this condition can occur with lymphoma. These internal organs can be liver, colon or stomach. [2]
  • Certain drugs and supplements: There are some kinds of supplements and drugs that can lead to acanthosis nigricans such as birth control pills, prednisone, high – dose niacin and other types of corticosteroids. [3,4]
  • Hormonal disorders: People who have problems with the adrenal glands, who suffer from ovarian cysts or underactive thyroids have increased chances of getting acanthosis nigricans. [5]
  • Insulin resistance: People who suffer from acanthosis nigricans are becoming resistant to insulin. This hormone is secreted by our pancreas which can allow to your body to process the sugar. When people are resistant to insulin, then this can lead to diabetes type 2. [6]

Risk factors: There are some factors that can increase the risk of getting acanthosis nigricans such as

  • Family history: There are some cases when people get this condition as result from the heredity in his family. [7]
  • Race: There was a study which was done in the United States of America in which was shown that Native Americans are having increased risk of getting acanthosis nigricans. [8]
  • Obesity: People who have problems with their weight have increased chances of getting acanthosis nigricans. [1]

Complications: If you suffer from acanthosis nigricans, then you have increased chances of getting diabetes type 2. [1]


[1] Phiske MM. An approach to acanthosis nigricans. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2014;5(3):239–49.

[2] Zhang R, Jiang M, Lei W, Wang A. Malignant acanthosis nigricans with recurrent bladder cancer: A case report and review of literature. OncoTargets and Therapy. 2021;14:951-7.

[3] Randle HW, Winkelmann RK. Steroid-induced acanthosis nigricans in dermatomyositis. Archives in Dermatology. 1979;115(5):587-8. doi:10.1001/archderm.1979.04010050021008

[4] Katz AS, Goff DC, Feldman SR. Acanthosis nigricans in obese patients: Presentations and implications for prevention of atherosclerotic vascular disease. Dermatology Online Journal. 2000;6(1).

[5] Masood M, Aslam N, Nisar S, et al. Relationship between total cystic area of ovaries and acanthosis nigricans in polycystic ovarian syndrome. Medical Forum Monthly. 2006;17(4):10-3.

[6] Kobaissi HA, Weigensberg MJ, Ball GDC, et al. Relation between acanthosis nigricans and insulin sensitivity in overweight Hispanic children at risk for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004;27(6):1412-6.

[7] Kong AS, Vanderbloemen L, Skipper B, et al. Acanthosis nigricans predicts the clustering of metabolic syndrome components in Hispanic elementary school-aged children. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012;25(0):1095–102. doi:10.1515/jpem-2012-0117

[8] Sander I, Maderal AD. Acanthosis nigricans. 2021. Retrieved from


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