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Yael Lefkovits and Amanda Adler

Summary

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD) is a chronic granulomatous dermatitis generally involving the anterior aspect of the shin, that arises in 0.3–1.2% of patients with diabetes mellitus (1). The lesions are often yellow or brown with telangiectatic plaque, a central area of atrophy and raised violaceous borders (2). Similar to other conditions with a high risk of scarring including burns, stasis ulcers and lupus vulgaris, NLD provides a favourable environment for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) formation (3). A number of cases of SCC from NLD have been recorded (3, 4, 5); however, our search of the literature failed to identify any cases of either metastatic or fatal SCC which developed within an area of NLD. This article describes a patient with established type 1 diabetes mellitus who died from SCC which developed from an area of NLD present for over 10 years. Currently, there are a paucity of recommendations in the medical literature for screening people with NLD for the early diagnosis of SCC. We believe that clinicians should regard non-healing ulcers in the setting of NLD with a high index of clinical suspicion for SCC, and an early biopsy of such lesions should be recommended.

Learning points:

  • Non-healing, recalcitrant ulcers arising from necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, which fail to heal by conservative measures, should be regarded with a high index of clinical suspicion for malignancy.
  • If squamous cell carcinoma is suspected, a biopsy should be performed as soon as possible to prevent metastatic spread, amputation or even death.
  • Our literature search failed to reveal specific recommendations for screening and follow-up of non-healing recalcitrant ulcers in the setting of necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum.
  • Further research is required in this field.