Hoaxes & Rumors

Horned Woman: Real or Fake?

Horned Woman: Real or Fake?

A picture circulating on social media shows an elderly Chinese woman with a horn protruding from her forehead. Is this image real or fake? Today we’ll take a closer look.

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It is real.

Photographs of the woman often circulate with claims that the horn is unexplained, or that the woman has “Devil’s Horns”. However, this condition is quite explainable, and is referred to as a cutaneous horn (or cornu cutaneum).

Cutaneous horns are known to sometimes grow from elderly humans. They are actually tumors made of concentrated keratin (structural protein fibers), and may be caused by solar overexposure, skin cancer, warts caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and/or scarring due to burns. The majority of cutaneous horns are benign, yet some are malignant/cancerous squamous cell carcinomas.

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The woman in the picture is actually a 101 year-old grandmother named Zhang Ruifang. She lives in Linlou village in the Henan province of China. Her story appeared in several media outlets within the United Kingdom in 2010. According to an article in the Daily Mail, the woman’s family claimed that the horn had started growing out of a rough patch of skin on her forehead in 2009, and had subsequently grown to be 2.4 inches in length. At the time that the article was written in early 2010, another horn appeared to be starting to grow on the other side of the woman’s forehead.

In February of 2011, the Telegraph featured an updated picture of the 102 year-old woman. At that time, her cutaneous horn had nearly doubled in length and was almost 10 cm long. There does not appear to be any new updates since then. If Zhang Ruifang were still alive, she would currently be 106 years-old.

Bottom Line

The image of an elderly Chinese grandmother with a horn growing from her forehead is real. It is likely that the growth is actually a cutaneous horn, a form of tumor that can sometimes afflict people in old age. In early 2011, the Telegraph stated that the woman’s 2.4 inch cutaneous horn had nearly doubled in length since it was first reported in early 2010. No new updates appear to have been published since then.

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