A Sore Subject


For several years, a 60-year-old woman has had a nonhealing, asymptomatic “sore” on her upper right cheek. The lesion causes no pain or discomfort; it bothers her simply because it will not go away. It does occasionally bleed.

Several attempts at treatment—including antibiotic ointment, peroxide, and topical alcohol— have failed. A dermatologist once treated the lesion with cryotherapy; this initially reduced its size, but the effect didn’t last.

The patient admits to “worshipping the sun” as a youngster, tanning at every opportunity. Several family members, including her sister and mother, have had skin cancer.

A 6.5-mm, round, red nodule is located on the mid-upper right cheek, below the eye. On closer inspection, it appears glassy and translucent, with several obvious telangiectasias. It is surprisingly firm on palpation, though not at all tender to touch.

Elsewhere, the patient’s fair skin has abundant evidence of sun damage, including wrinkles, discoloration, and focal telangiectasias. No other lesions are seen. No nodes are palpable in her head or neck.

With the patient’s permission, and after discussion of the indications, procedure, alternatives, and risks, the lesion is removed by curettement. It is quite friable and shallow, allowing complete removal. The area is left to heal by secondary intention, and the specimen is submitted to pathology.

What is the diagnosis?

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