Research suggests that having psoriasis can increase people’s risk of developing certain cancers. However, more research is necessary to fully establish the link.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the skin to reproduce more rapidly than usual. The abnormal growth typically causes skin discoloration and scaly patches to form on the skin.

Studies show that people with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing site-specific cancers.

This article further explores psoriasis and its potential link to cancer.

A 2016 review found that people with psoriasis have a higher overall risk of developing cancer. They may have a further increased risk of developing site-specific cancers, including lymphoma, lung cancer, and nonmelanoma skin cancer.

People with psoriasis may also have an increased risk of lymphoma, throat, pancreatic, and liver cancer, according to a 2019 review.

However, researchers did not find a connection between psoriasis and colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, or leukemia.

Mechanisms of the link

It is unclear whether it is psoriasis itself or common psoriasis treatments, such as immune-suppressing medications and UV treatments, that may increase a person’s risk of cancer.

A 2020 review states that some common psoriasis treatments may carry an increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer. These include psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

Alternatively, the increase in cancer risk may result from psoriasis’ chronic inflammatory actions.

Psoriasis may be a risk factor for developing cancer, but doctors do not consider it a direct cause of cancer. Also, cancer cannot cause psoriasis.

The exact link between psoriasis and cancer is unknown, and more research is necessary to assess it fully.

Psoriasis and skin cancers are two distinct conditions, both with multiple types. However, some forms of skin cancer may produce visible symptoms similar to certain types of psoriasis.

It is important for a person to talk with their doctor if they notice any sudden changes in their skin.

Learn more about the different types of psoriasis here.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis tends to be pink or red on those with light or fair skin tones, and the scales are silvery white. On medium skin tones, it can appear salmon-colored with silvery-white scales. On darker skin tones, psoriasis could look violet and the scales gray. Or it can also appear dark brown and difficult to see.

See how different types of psoriasis can appear on darker skin tones here.

Other psoriasis symptoms can include:

  • cracked or dry skin that may bleed
  • burning, itching, or pain
  • thickened fingernails

Learn more about the symptoms of psoriasis here.

Skin cancer

In comparison, skin cancer symptoms often present as a change on the surface of the skin with the following features:

  • a firm, taut texture
  • often shiny, raised, pearly, or waxy
  • oddly colored
  • scaling, bleeding, or crusting
  • blurred or rough edges
  • changing and growing over time without disappearing
  • distinguished by rapid growth
  • asymmetrical in shape
  • often brown but also dark blue, red, white, yellow, or black

Learn more about the symptoms of skin cancer here.

Differences

Psoriasis often covers large portions of the body. Skin cancer tends to be smaller and occurs when the skin is regularly exposed to the sun, though it can affect any skin area.

Psoriasis often goes through phases of outbreaks followed by recession. Skin cancer will change over time, and the symptoms may become more severe without treatment.

Psoriasis does not cause cancer, and cancer does not cause psoriasis. But a person with psoriasis may have a higher risk of developing certain cancers in their lifetime.

The exact physical link between psoriasis and cancer development is unknown. Research suggests that increased inflammation due to psoriasis and side effects of psoriasis treatments may be behind the increased likelihood of some cancers appearing.