Skin - Nonmelanocytic tumors
Dermoid cyst (cutaneous)

Author: Ghassan Tranesh, M.D. (see Authors page)
Editor: Hong Qu, M.D.

Revised: 4 October 2016, last major update January 2015

Copyright: (c) 2002-2016,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Dermoid cyst [title] skin

Cite this page: Dermoid cyst (cutaneous). website. Accessed October 22nd, 2016.
Definition / General
  • Usually face of children along embryonic closure lines
  • Also neck midline, nasal root, nose, forehead, mastoid area, anterior chest, scalp
  • Dermoid cysts result from sequestration of cutaneous tissues along embryonal lines of closure
  • Also encountered in deeper noncutaneous sites
  • Some authors propose an embryological origin for these cysts, particularly in the nasal form
Clinical Features
  • Usually enlarges slowly, but sudden increase in size may occur, bringing the lesion to attention at a later age
  • Treated with excision if clinically indicated
  • Squamous cell carcinoma rarely develops in wall of cyst
  • Infection of a cranial dermoid cyst may be complicated by central nervous system involvement
Case Reports
Clinical Images

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Lower lid

Lateral eyebrow

CT without contrast shows lateral
dermoid cyst with characteristic hyperdense
cyst wall and hypodense cyst cavity

Gross Description
  • Unilocular cysts are usually subcutaneous and filled with sebaceous material and hair
Micro Description
  • Lined by stratified squamous epithelium with associated hair follicles and sebaceous glands
  • Eccrine sweat glands present in 35%, apocrine glands in 15%
  • Occasionally smooth muscle, but in contrast to benign cystic teratoma, cartilage and bone are not described
Micro Images

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Typical dermoid cyst

Keratin filled lumen

Kertinized stratified squamous lining

Positive Stains
  • Suprabasal layer: CK1 and CK10
  • Basal layer: CK14
  • Sebaceous gland-like areas: CK14+ in sebaceous acinus
  • Sebaceous duct: CK17
Differential Diagnosis