Acanthosis nigricans

J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 1998;9(2-4):407-18. doi: 10.1515/JBCPP.1998.9.2-4.407.


Acanthosis nigricans is a lesion affecting localized areas of the skin in persons with obesity and/or hyperinsulinemia. Roughening of the skin correlates with histological papilomatosis and the apparent darkening is due to hyperkeratosis. Biochemical mechanisms for developing this hyperplastic lesion are unclear, but likely involve local cutaneous growth factors. Cross sectional surveys of unselected populations have demonstrated that young children have low prevalences of obesity and acanthosis nigricans, but the prevalences of both increase with increasing age until plateaus are reached after the age of ten. Nearly 40% of Native American teenagers have acanthosis nigricans, whereas about 13% of African American, 6% of Hispanic, and less than 1% of white, non-Hispanic children aged 10-19 have clinically apparent acanthosis nigricans. We conclude that the presence of this skin lesion is a clinical surrogate of laboratory-documented hyperinsulinemia. Acanthosis nigricans identifies a subgroup within an ethnic group who have the highest insulin concentration, the most severe insulin resistance, and thus the highest risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acanthosis Nigricans / ethnology*
  • Acanthosis Nigricans / etiology
  • Acanthosis Nigricans / pathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / complications
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / complications


  • Insulin