Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans (DFSP): What it Looks Like

A rare skin cancer, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) tends to grow slowly. It can grow deeply, reaching into the muscle and even bone. DSFP rarely spreads to other parts of the body, so it has a higher survival rate than some other types of skin cancer.

DFSP in a child
In children, DFSP tends to be reddish or blue.

Photograph used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The photograph was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Vol. # 61, Love WE, Keiler SA, Tamburro JE et al. “Surgical management of congenital dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.” 1014-23. Copyright Elsevier (2009). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

  DFSP often looks like a scar
DFSP often looks like a scar.


Photograph used with permission of the
 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The photograph was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Vol. # 49,  Young CR, Albertini MJ, “Atrophic dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans: case report, review, and proposed molecular mechanisms.” 761-4. Copyright Elsevier (2003). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Where DFSP Develops
The most common area of the body for DFSP to appear is the trunk. A study that looked at 2,885 cases of DFSP found that DFSP is most likely to appear on the following areas of the body:

  • Trunk (42%)

  • Upper arms and legs (23%)

  • Lower arms and legs (18%)

  • Head and neck (16%)

DFSP can occur elsewhere on the body, including inside the mouth. It rarely occurs on the hands or feet.

Warning Signs
This skin cancer tends to grow slowly. In its earliest stage, it often looks like a flat, hard, skin-colored lesion. This lesion does not cause any pain or discomfort, so many people are unaware of it. As DFSP grows, it reaches deeper into the skin. It is often said that this skin cancer has tentacles. These so-called tentacles can grow into the fat, muscle, and even bone.

As DFSP grows, a hard mass or lump (tumor) appears on the surface of the skin. Sometimes, more than one lump or mass appears. In adults, a tumor tends to be light reddish brown to light violet in color. In young patients, the tumor tends to be blue or reddish in color.

DFSP often looks like a scar or patch of wrinkled skin. And DFSP frequently develops in a scar, especially a scar caused by a surgery or burn.

In pregnant women, DFSP can grow more quickly.

When to See a Dermatologist
Anyone who notices the following should promptly see a dermatologist for an exam:

  • Growth on the skin that does not go away in 2 weeks

  • Change to a scar, especially a scar caused by a surgery or burn

  • Anything that is quickly growing or changing on the skin

Dermatologists receive specialized training in diagnosing and treating skin cancer.

More Information
What is Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans (DFSP)?

References:
Gloster HM, Jr. “Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology September 1996; 35: 355-74; quiz 75-6.

Halpern M, Chen E, Ratner D. “Sarcomas.” In Nouri K. [editor]. Skin Cancer. United States. McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p. 217-8.

Love WE, Keiler SA, Tamburro JE et al. “Surgical management of congenital dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. December 2009; 61: 1014-23.

Young CR, Albertini MJ. “Atrophic dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans: case report, review, and proposed molecular mechanisms.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. October 2003; 49: 761-4.


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DFSP tumors

In rare cases, more than 1 DFSP tumor appears.

Photo used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides,

 
 

 

 

 

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