Itchy skin, which doctors call “pruritus,” is not a common symptom of skin cancer. However, some people may experience itching as one of their symptoms, especially in the later stages. Squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas may cause itchiness and pain.
This article discusses whether skin cancer itches, the symptoms, and risk factors. It also looks at what else may cause itchy skin, when to contact a doctor, and skin cancer diagnosis.
Sometimes, skin cancer can cause a person’s skin to itch.
With SCC, a person
- wart-like growths
- discolored, rough, scaly patches
- open sores that do not heal
- raised lumps or growths that sometimes have a sunken center
With BCC, a person
- open sores that do not heal
- small, translucent bumps that are red or pink and may have black, blue, or brown areas, depending on skin tone
- flat, pale, or yellow areas that are firm
- pink growths with a sunken center that may have blood vessels spreading out from them
- red, raised areas that might be itchy
Melanoma is less common and may present as changes to a mole. The
- Asymmetry: One side of the mole may not match the other.
- Border: The mole’s edges are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
- Color: The mole is not uniform in color and may have shades of black, brown, pink, white, red, or blue.
- Diameter: The mole is larger across than one-quarter inch.
- Evolving: The mole changes in size, color, or shape.
Skin cancer can appear differently in different people. A person should contact a doctor regarding any changes to their skin they have concerns about.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but
- light skin color
- green or blue eyes
- red or blonde hair
- a large number of moles
Other risk factors include:
- frequent exposure to UV rays
- lack of sun protection
- a family history of skin cancer
- previous history of skin cancer
- older age
- skin that burns easily in the sun
There are several potential causes of itchy skin. Some common causes include:
- skin conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema
- allergic reactions to pollen, insect bites, food, or medication
- substances that irritate the skin, such as cosmetics or chemicals
- certain diseases that affect the nervous system, such as shingles or diabetes
- parasites, such as lice or scabies
- thyroid, kidney, or liver diseases
- fungal infections
- iron deficiency
- vitamin D deficiency
A person can talk with a doctor about screening for skin cancer even without symptoms. This
It is best to contact a doctor if a person notices any changes to their skin, such as new growths, changing moles, or wounds that do not heal. If a person experiences recurring itching or pain, they should also contact a doctor to rule out skin cancer.
To diagnose skin cancer, a doctor may examine a person’s skin and ask them about any marks or growths. They may ask whether skin areas are painful, itchy, or bleeding and whether they have changed in appearance.
They may also ask about the patient’s personal and family history of skin cancer and discuss lifestyle factors, such as sun protection and exposure.
A doctor may also feel the patient’s lymph nodes to determine whether they are enlarged.
If they suspect skin cancer, a doctor will typically refer the patient to a dermatologist specializing in skin health. A dermatologist may further examine areas of concern and perform a biopsy on abnormal skin areas, which laboratory technicians can examine under a microscope.
Itchy skin is not one of the most common symptoms of skin cancer, and itchy skin alone may not be a reliable indicator of cancer.
However, in some cases, a person may experience itching due to skin cancer. This is because skin cancer can cause inflammation, which can lead to itchiness.
In most cases, a person may experience itching in the later stages of skin cancer, after the cancer is large enough to be felt and seen, and not as an initial or early symptom.
There are many potential causes of itchy skin, such as allergic reactions, a skin condition such as eczema, or a reaction to an irritating substance.
A person should contact a doctor if they experience skin cancer symptoms, such as changes to the skin, a wound that will not heal, a new growth, or changes to a mole. They should also contact a doctor or dermatologist if they experience persistent itching.