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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 27, 2010

THE NAMING OF DISEASES

JAMA. 2010;303(4):372. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1897

The many objections to eponyms in scientific literature gain force in the case of new names for old diseases. An illustration of this is the naming of the so-called Krompecher tumors. Krompecher1 wrote an original article on basal-cell carcinoma which is a valuable study of the subject. The basal-cell tumors, however, are among the oldest of the recognized lesions of the skin. Histologically, they are the so-called tubular epitheliomas, growing in strings between the connective-tissue bundles of the corium. Clinically, they have been known from time immemorial as “rodent ulcers,” “Jacob's ulcers,” “ulcus exedens,” etc. All of these names, including “Krompecher tumor,” are confusing and should be dropped for “basal-cell epithelioma,” except that it seems almost a desecration to ancient medicine to change a name so old and hoary as “rodent ulcer.” To substitute the name “Krompecher tumor” is like changing the name of the River Jordan to “Van Dyke's River,” for instance, because Van Dyke has lately written entertainingly on it.

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