Spots on the breast are usually symptoms of a rash or other skin condition. They may appear red, dark brown, or purple in color. Less commonly, these spots can occur with some types of breast cancer.

The spots may be red on light skin and purple or dark brown on dark skin.

Being able to recognize the early signs of breast cancer can allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment and improve a person’s outlook.

This article looks at whether spots or a rash on the breast can be a sign of breast cancer.

It also examines other possible causes of spots on the breasts and when to contact a doctor.

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Although spots or a rash on the breast are usually symptoms of a noncancerous condition, they can sometimes be an early sign of breast cancer, and a person can monitor them closely.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)

A rash can be an early symptom of IBC. This is a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer.

A 2018 review notes that IBC accounts for around 2% to 4% of all breast cancer cases, yet it contributes to 7% to 10% of breast cancer-related deaths.

People with IBC typically do not have breast lumps, which are a common symptom in other types of breast cancer.

Other symptoms of IBC include:

  • breast swelling and warmth
  • skin inflammation that affects more than one-third of the breast
  • enlargement or heaviness of the affected breast
  • breast skin that feels and appears thick and pitted, similar to an orange peel
  • an inverted or retracted nipple
  • a change in breast size as a result of the swelling
  • thickening of the breast skin
  • swollen lymph nodes under the arms or collarbone
  • persistent itching

Once noticed, symptoms can develop quickly.

Paget’s disease of the breast

Spots or a rash on the breast can also be a sign of another rare type of breast cancer known as Paget’s disease of the breast or Paget’s disease of the nipple.

It accounts for around 1% to 4% of all cases of breast cancer.

Paget’s disease typically affects only one nipple, and it can resemble other noncancerous skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis.

Signs and symptoms that affect the nipple and areola may include:

  • scaly, inflamed, crusted, and thickened plaque-like lesion
  • very dry skin
  • pain or itching

Other symptoms of Paget’s disease include:

  • inversion or deformation of the nipple
  • yellowish fluid or blood coming out of the nipple
  • a noticeable mass in the breast, which occurs in around 50% of people who have Paget’s disease and skin lesions

The Breast Cancer Healthline app provides access to an online breast cancer community. Users can connect with others who may be going through similar experiences and gain advice and support through group discussions.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), bug bites usually cause a lump on the skin that can be small, inflamed, painful, and itchy. They usually resolve within a few days.

However, in some cases, people may develop a mild allergic reaction following a bug bite. This can cause a larger area of skin around the bite to become swollen, inflamed, and painful.

People can contact a doctor if they develop any symptoms of breast cancer or if their current symptoms do not resolve. They may also talk with a doctor if their symptoms occur alongside other symptoms of breast cancer.

Although pimples can be painful and cause localized inflammation and swelling, they do not cause the other symptoms of cancer.

There are different kinds of pimples, including:

  • Whiteheads: These pimples produce a white bump, which gives them the name whiteheads.
  • Blackheads: These pimples appear black on the skin surface, hence the name blackheads.
  • Papules: These are inflamed lesions that appear as small, inflamed bumps. They may also be tender to touch.
  • Pustules: Pustules are inflamed at the base and have pus-filled lesions at the top, which may be white or yellow.
  • Nodules: These are large lesions that can be solid and painful. Nodules are usually deep within the skin.
  • Cystic acne: With cystic acne, a person has painful lesions filled with pus. They are also deep within the skin.

Bug bites are usually itchy, whereas pimples are not. If it becomes infected, a bug bite may also appear similar to a pimple. Infected bug bites may lead to a buildup of pus.

An infected bug bite may also cause symptoms that appear similar to those of breast cancer. These symptoms can include:

  • swelling around the bite
  • pain on or around the bite

If people are concerned about their symptoms, they can contact a doctor.

There are many other possible causes of spots or rashes on the breast, including:

Nipple dermatitis

Nipple dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin on the nipple and areola. It usually causes pain.

Causes of nipple dermatitis include:

  • skin irritation due to infant attachment
  • atopic dermatitis and other allergic reactions
  • bacterial, viral, and yeast infections

Breast abscess

A breast abscess is a buildup of pus in the breast that results from a bacterial infection. The bacteria get inside the breast through the skin or nipple. Breast abscesses can be painful and most commonly affect people who are nursing.

Doctors usually treat abscesses with antibiotics. However, some abscesses require additional treatment, such as drainage or needle aspiration.

Mammary duct ectasia

Mammary duct ectasia is a noncancerous, or benign, condition that affects the milk ducts in the breast. The ducts become wider, and their walls get thicker, which can lead to a blockage and buildup of fluid.

It usually causes bloody nipple discharge and discoloration and tenderness of the nipple and areola. Sometimes, a mass may be present under the areola.

Mastitis

Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast, which is more common in people who are nursing. It results from milk becoming trapped in the breast. This can cause bacteria to multiply, leading to an infection.

It typically causes inflammation, warmth, and tenderness of the affected breast. However, more serious symptoms can include fever, breast abscess, and septicemia, a serious blood infection.

Other rashes

Other types of rash that can affect the breast include:

  • Candidiasis: Candidiasis is a fungal infection typically occurring in the skin folds, including under the breasts.
  • Atopic dermatitis: Also known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that causes redness or discoloration and itching. It may also cause the skin to scale, crust over, or ooze fluid.
  • Psoriasis: This is an inflammatory, chronic skin condition. Depending on a person’s skin color, psoriasis can cause pink, red, purple, or brown patches of skin covered with white, gray, or silvery scales.
  • Hives: Hives, or urticaria, is an allergic reaction to certain foods, medications, or other substances. It causes inflamed, raised, and itchy skin rashes.
  • Shingles: A nerve infection that causes a painful rash along a nerve. Shingles can occur anywhere on the body, including on or near the breast area.
  • Scabies: An itchy skin condition that occurs when small mites burrow into the skin. Scabies is contagious and can spread quickly through close physical contact with people who have the condition.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a common inflammatory skin condition that mainly affects the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis causes discolored and scaly patches. These patches can also appear on the face and upper part of the body, including the breasts.
  • Cellulitis: A potentially serious skin condition that occurs when bacteria enters the skin through a break or crack. Cellulitis can cause swelling, inflammation, warmth, and pain in the affected area. It can occur anywhere on the body and spread to other parts.

A spot or rash on the breast is usually not a cause for concern but can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition, including breast cancer.

People can contact a doctor as soon as possible if the rash occurs alongside any of the following symptoms:

  • changes in the breast skin
  • new spots or rashes on the breast
  • persistent pain that does not improve or resolve
  • swelling, warmth, and inflammation of the breast
  • wounds that do not heal
  • fluid leaking from the rash
  • streaks coming from the rash

A person can also contact a doctor for any rash that does not go away after a while, appears severe, or causes other symptoms that raise concerns.

Below are some commonly asked questions about a spot on the breast.

What does a red spot on the breast mean?

A spot or rash on the breast is usually not a cause for concern and may relate to one of the following conditions:

  • bug bite
  • sunburn
  • heat rash
  • allergies

However, in rare cases, it can point to breast cancer.

What does a breast cancer rash look like?

A breast cancer rash typically presents as redness or discoloration, swelling, or changes in skin texture on the breast, often resembling an orange peel.

However, breast cancer does not commonly manifest as a rash alone. It is more likely to cause other symptoms such as lumps, nipple changes, or skin dimpling.

A spot or rash on the breast is usually not a major cause of concern. A number of benign conditions can cause these symptoms.

However, a person may consider speaking with a doctor if they are concerned about their symptoms, such as pain, swelling of the breast, or changes in the nipple.

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