Is there a link between psoriasis and cancer?
Some studies have also identified psoriasis as being a risk factor for several other diseases, including psoriatic arthritis. Despite these findings, more research is needed to determine the exact correlation between psoriasis and cancer.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the skin to reproduce more rapidly than usual. The abnormal growth causes red, scaly patches to form on the surface.
In this article, we explore psoriasis and its potential link to cancer.
Is psoriasis linked to cancer?
Studies suggest a link between a person developing certain types of cancer and having psoriasis.
Though more research is needed, there appears to be some connection between psoriasis and an increased risk of cancer in some people.
Researchers are debating 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.
For example, a study published in 2016 concluded that, though small, the chances of developing cancers increased due to a person having psoriasis.
The study says people's exposure to treatments such as UV therapy and the use of immunosuppressive drugs could be linked to the cancer occurrence.
Alternatively, the small increase in cancer risk could be the result of psoriasis' chronic inflammatory actions.
The researchers recommend further research to continue to explore their findings. Also, they suggest dermatologists consider applying current cancer screening guidelines and advice to those people with psoriasis who they treat.
Elsewhere, the National Psoriasis Foundation say there is an increased risk of a person with psoriasis developing melanoma and hematologic cancers, which are certain cancers of the blood. The support group suggests that the risk is due to systemic therapy and phototherapy.
Another study in the journal Epidemiology and Health Services Research concluded that phototherapy treatment might be the cause of higher risk in people with psoriasis. But people should note that this study has a conflict of interest listed.
Can one cause the other?
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.
Scientists believe that the causes of psoriasis, though still not fully understood, are linked to genetics and external triggers.
Can cancer look like psoriasis?
A person should speak to a doctor if they notice any change in the appearance of their skin.
Psoriasis and skin cancers are two distinct conditions and diseases. But some types of skin cancer may resemble psoriasis.
If someone is concerned about any change in the appearance of their skin, they should talk to their doctor.
For example, psoriasis symptoms include:
- patches of red, scaly skin, often around joints, skin folds, and on the scalp
- cracked or dry skin that may bleed
- burning, itching, or pain
- thickened fingernails
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
Psoriasis often covers large portions of the body. Skin cancer tends to be smaller in size and located where the skin is regularly exposed to the sun, though it can affect any area of skin.
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.
Either the nature of psoriasis itself or some of the treatments used to manage its symptoms may be behind the increased likelihood of some cancers appearing.
Further research is needed to find out the connection between psoriasis and increased cancer risk.
People with psoriasis can speak to their doctor about their risk factors for developing cancer, and what they can do to help prevent it.