The most common skin tumors in horses, sarcoids are thought to affect about 2 percent of horses across the globe. Though the tumors don't spread, they can still be uncomfortable for the affected horse, potentially affecting eyelid function and leading to ulceration of they eyeball.
Believed to be caused by a bovine papillomavirus transmitted by flies, it's unclear how the virus leads to cancer or why it can cause disease in both horses and cattle. There is also a heritable component to the disease; two horses that are affected by sarcoids that are bred to one another vastly increases the likelihood that their offspring will develop sarcoids at some point during his life.
There is no gender or coat color that is predisposed to developing sarcoids, but some breeds are more likely to develop the disease. Thoroughbreds are more likely to develop sarcoids than Standardbreds, and Lipizzaners seem to be resistant to sarcoid development.
Sarcoids should be treated while they are still small and more easily treated. Treatment can involve topical ointments, chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. The location and type of lesion will determine the most appropriate treatment; laser excision of the tumor generally results in about an 83 percent success rate; radiotherapy is about 90 percent successful. Both of these modalities present the least risk to the horse and have the best potential outcome. Recurrent sarcoids become more difficult to treat.
Read more at Equine Disease Quarterly.
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