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  1. Trent, Jennifer T. MD
  2. Kirsner, Robert S. MD


Due to the prevalence of skin cancers, health care practitioners involved with wound management are likely to encounter cutaneous malignancies as part of their practice. This article focuses on 2 ways in which malignancies and wounds are related: the malignant degeneration of chronic wounds into cancer and malignancies that present as chronic wounds.


The most common scenario in which chronic wounds have been associated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma is in the presence of chronic osteomyelitis. However, wounds secondary to burns, trauma, radiotherapy, and diabetes are also at risk for malignant degeneration. It is often difficult to distinguish malignant transformations from primary malignant ulcers. Given the uncommon nature of degeneration of a chronic wound or a malignancy presenting as a chronic wound, some suggest that only suspicious wounds undergo biopsy. Primary malignancy should be considered if the ulcer has a relatively short duration and the patient does not have a history of prior radiotherapy. Until recently, amputation has been the treatment of choice for squamous cell carcinomas that arose within chronic wounds associated with chronic osteomyelitis; however, other reports have shown that other methods of ensuring complete local excision are also useful.