An elderly Chinese woman has stunned friends and family by growing a horn on her forehead that looks strikingly similar to a goat’s horns. The woman has shown no other mutations, but this one has some wondering if it’s a sign, either of mystical significance or of future mutations to come.
One hundred and one year old Zhang Ruifang is no stranger to experience, having raised seven children to adulthood in her life and now living out her days as a grandmother. But when a mysterious formation on the end of her head began sprouting out over the course of several months, she must admit that she has never seen anything like this. Her head began with a small patch of seemingly benign precancerous cells, but as time went on the cells multiplied and eventually with time created a knot no smaller than a raised quarter on her head. As time progressed, however, this formation grew too and within one year she was sporting a horn no smaller than that of a mature goat. The formation was measured and appears to be 6 cm in size with no sign of slowing its rate of growth.
Though there is no official explanation for the mysterious mutation, it currently resembles a cutaneous horn. Since it’s a growth on her skin, it is not connected to her skull, the funnel shaped growth does not share this in common with goat horns, which often are based in the skull and protrude outward sometimes over a foot in length. Though the horns are certainly not unheard of, they do constitute a rare mutation. The horns can be surgically removed, but patients often find that there is no reason to pursue surgery if they aren’t dangerous.
The horns are most common in the elderly, or in people with skin conditions that have a lot of opportunity for skin mutations. Those aged 60-70 are the most likely to develop the mysterious condition. The source can be a common wart, or actinic karatoses. The primary mutagenic factor is likely something along the lines of the rapid cellular division similar to cancer, but over half of the conditions are not inherently cancerous.
When looking at mutations such as this, there are two avenues that are important to consider. There’s the obvious cosmetic one that posits the question of identity relative to the unique feature, and there’s the concept of safety and quality of life. Will Zhang Ruifang be able to live a safe and comfortable life with the horn on her head? Doctors suggest that if the horn is not cancerous, there is no pressing need for her to remove it. Of course there is also a matter of comfort and quality of life. If Zhang’s horn is not a difficult obstacle for her in socialization, it could potentially be a boon, considering its rarity. Initial reports indicate that Zhang is not interested in having the horn removed, since it poses no threat to her health, and several onlookers consider it a sign of good luck.