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Dermatologic Manifestations of Gardner Syndrome Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 08, 2016


Many skin findings of Gardner syndrome are evident on full body examination; however, the patient's history of the age at onset and whether lesions are present in family members is important.

Cysts in Gardner syndrome patients are usually asymptomatic, but they may be pruritic and/or inflamed.

More than half the patients with Gardner syndrome have dental anomalies.[6] Previously undiagnosed Gardner syndrome may be detected when the patient is evaluated for multiple impacted and unerupted teeth.



A full body skin examination for skin tumors and epidermal inclusion cysts is necessary in Gardner syndrome.

Several factors differentiate cutaneous cysts associated with Gardner syndrome from ordinary cysts. Epidermoid cysts of Gardner syndrome occur at an earlier age (around puberty) than ordinary cysts and in less common locations, such as the face, the scalp, and the extremities. Gardner syndrome cysts tend to be multiple and are present in the multiple form in 50-65% of patients. Similar to ordinary epidermal inclusion cysts, cysts in Gardner syndrome are usually asymptomatic; however, they may be pruritic and/or inflamed, and they may rupture.

Other skin signs in Gardner syndrome include the following:

  • Fibromas
  • Lipomas (may be visceral, including intracranial [7] )
  • Leiomyomas
  • Neurofibromas
  • Pigmented skin lesions

Noncutaneous features of Gardner syndrome include the following:

  • Desmoid tumors occur as swelling in the anterior abdominal wall and are often preceded by surgical trauma. The incidence of desmoid tumors in FAP is 8.9%, whereas it is rare in the general population. [8]
  • Osteomas are required to make the diagnosis of Gardner syndrome. The mandible is the most common location. They may be widespread in the jaw. [9] However, osteomas may occur in the skull and the long bones. Osteomas precede clinical and radiologic evidence of colonic polyposis; therefore, they may be sensitive markers for the disease.
  • Colonic adenomatous polyps have a 100% risk of transformation to colonic adenocarcinoma.
  • Multifocal pigmented lesions of the fundus are seen in 80% of patients and may present shortly after birth. These lesions can be the first marker of disease.
  • Dental abnormalities in this syndrome include multiple impacted or unerupted teeth, supernumerary teeth, hypodontia, compound odontomes, and dentigerous cyst. [10] These dental findings may become evident several years before the intestinal ones. [11]

Other associated neoplasms in Gardner syndrome include the following:

  • Periampullary carcinoma (ampulla of Vater; reported in 12% of patients with FAP, usually after colectomy)
  • CNS tumors, such as medulloblastoma, glioblastoma, and craniopharyngioma (found in FAP subgroup in Turcot syndrome) [12]
  • Thyroid carcinoma (especially in female patients): This papillary thyroid carcinoma is a distinct type of follicular cell neoplasm histologically characterized by cribriform-morular features. [13] Its incidence may have been underestimated.
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Hepatoblastoma
  • Liposarcoma
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma [14]


The cause of Gardner syndrome is genetic, with autosomal dominant inheritance.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH Professor and Head of Dermatology, Professor of Pathology, Pediatrics, Medicine, and Preventive Medicine and Community Health, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; Visiting Professor, Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, New York Academy of Medicine, American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Warren R Heymann, MD Head, Division of Dermatology, Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Warren R Heymann, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Sungnack Lee, MD Vice President of Medical Affairs, Professor, Department of Dermatology, Ajou University School of Medicine, Korea

Sungnack Lee, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors, Karen Allen, MD, and Raul Del Rosario, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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Adenoma-to-carcinoma sequence on a cellular level.
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