Xanthomas might be a sign of cancer, an attending physician of dermatology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital said.
A 45-year-old man sought medical attention for hand numbness and joint pain, and was found to have a papule — a small, hard bump on the skin — on his index finger on the left hand, papules in the mouth and skin, and lesions on the temples, according to the hospital.
Also, bulging lesions were also found on the patient’s hard palate and epiglottis, physician Chen Chang-lin (陳長齡) said, adding that while the patient has a normal blood lipid level, later tests found that he is suffering from thymic carcinoma.
A xanthoma is a papule or nodule in the skin composed of lipid deposits, explained Chen, which is a symptom of abnormally high blood lipid levels, triglycerides or high cholesterol levels.
However, there is another group of patients who develop xanthomas with normal blood lipid levels. Three causes of this scenario have been confirmed: lipoprotein composition changes, changes in local tissues such as damage to or inflammation of the skin, and having proliferative diseases of the lymphoreticular system, such as multiple myeloma, malignant lymphoma or leukemia, Chen said.
Chen said cases belonging to the second type of xanthoma — with normal blood lipid levels — are rarely seen, and for this reason he urged those who developed xanthomas, but are without hyperlipidemia, to see a doctor as soon as possible as they may be signs of underlying conditions.