Skip to Content

Atypical Fibroxanthoma


Gregory L. Wells

, MD, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine

Last full review/revision May 2019| Content last modified May 2019

Atypical fibroxanthoma is a skin sarcoma (a type of cancer) that tends to grow slowly.

(See also Overview of Skin Cancer.)

Atypical fibroxanthomas are uncommon but usually occur on the head and neck of older people. They may look like other skin cancers (other than melanoma) and often appear as pink-red raised areas or bumps that do not heal and may be tender.


  • Biopsy

Doctors base the diagnosis of atypical fibroxanthoma on the results of a biopsy. During this procedure, a small piece of the tumor is removed and examined under a microscope.


Because atypical fibroxanthoma cancers seem to be related to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light (see Overview of Sunlight and Skin Damage), doctors recommend a number of measures to limit UV exposure, starting in early childhood.

  • Avoiding the sun: For example, seeking shade, minimizing outdoor activities between 10 AM and 4 PM (when the sun’s rays are strongest), and avoiding sunbathing and the use of tanning beds
  • Wearing protective clothing: For example, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and broad-brimmed hats
  • Using sunscreen: At least sun protection factor (SPF) 30 with UVA and UVB protection used as directed and reapplied every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating but not used to prolong sun exposure


  • Removal of the tumor

Atypical fibroxanthomas do not typically spread (metastasize) to other organs. Tumors are surgically removed, or Mohs microscopically controlled surgery is done.

Copyright © 2021 Merck & Co., Inc., known as MSD outside of the US, Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved. Merck Manual Disclaimer