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Acanthosis nigricans

Inbal Sander, MD
Section Editor
Jeffrey Callen, MD, FACP, FAAD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Acanthosis nigricans is a common condition characterized by velvety, hyperpigmented plaques on the skin. Intertriginous sites, such as the neck and axillae, are common sites for involvement. Less frequently, acanthosis nigricans appears in other skin sites or on mucosal surfaces.

Clinical recognition of acanthosis nigricans is important because the disorder can occur in association with a variety of systemic abnormalities, many of which are characterized by insulin resistance. Obesity and diabetes mellitus are among the most frequently associated disorders. Rarely, acanthosis nigricans develops as a sign of internal malignancy.

The epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of acanthosis nigricans will be reviewed here. Specific disorders that may present with acanthosis nigricans are reviewed in greater detail separately.


Acanthosis nigricans can affect both males and females, as well as infants, children, and adults. Although prevalence rates of this disorder have varied among studies, it is evident that a significant proportion of obese and diabetic individuals exhibit this finding, and that the prevalence of this disorder may differ among ethnic groups [1-12]. In the United States, acanthosis nigricans appears to be more common in people of Native American, African-American, and Hispanic origin than in white or Asian individuals [1,5-10,13,14].

Examples of studies that have evaluated the prevalence of acanthosis nigricans in the United States include the following:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 01, 2017.
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