Malignancy arising within cutaneous tattoos: case of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans and review of literature

J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Aug;10(8):837-42.


Background: Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) is an uncommon tumor of the skin with high rates of local recurrence. Several reports describe a frequent history of local trauma. In one prior case, a DFSP arising in a tattoo site has been reported. Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) has been used successfully for treatment.

Objective: To present a case of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans arising in the site of a prior and current tattoo, and treated with Mohs micrographic surgery.

Methods: We present findings of a case of a DFSP arising in a tattoo and a review of Medline literature on the association between tattoos and cutaneous malignancy, and treatment of DFSP with MMS.

Results: Review of the literature confirms multiple reports of DFSP arising in sites of local trauma, as well as malignancies arising in sites of tattoos. The recurrence rate for MMS treatment of DFSP (0-6.6%) was found to be significantly lower than that for patients treated with wide local excision (13% to 95%).

Conclusions: DFSP should be considered in the differential diagnosis of neoplasms arising within areas of tattoos. Sites of local trauma and tattoos may show predilection for benign and malignant changes and should be evaluated during regular skin exams. Review of the literature confirms MMS is an ideal treatment modality for DFSP as the tumor often extends far beyond clinical margins.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / complications
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / epidemiology
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / pathology*
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mohs Surgery
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery
  • Skin Neoplasms / complications
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Tattooing / adverse effects*
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology