We all itch from time to time, although it’s often difficult to diagnose the cause of itchy skin. Everything from insect bites to dry skin to mild allergic reactions can bring on that familiar itchy feeling.
In most cases, itching is harmless – however, itchy skin can also be a warning sign of skin cancer. Therefore, it’s very important to know the difference between your basic itch and when it could mean something more. The skin experts at The Derm are here to help.
When is itching a sign of skin cancer?
Pain and tenderness are more common symptoms of skin cancer than itchy skin. However, cancer can potentially irritate the fine nerve endings in your skin, causing itchiness as well.
Frequent itching might be a sign of skin cancer, especially when accompanied by:
• A new skin growth or lesion
• A sore that continually crusts over but doesn’t heal
• Any changes in an existing mole’s color or shape
• A pink, pearly bump that bleeds easily
• A rough or scaly patch of skin
If you have any of these symptoms or notice any new, changing, or unusual rashes or spots, consult with a dermatologist at The Derm right away.
What types of skin cancer can cause itching?
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer that usually develops from pre-cancerous growths on your skin. Squamous cell carcinoma tends to appear on areas with excessive sun exposure, such as the face, scalp, lips, shoulders, ears, or hands.
Anyone can get squamous cell carcinoma, but you’re at greater risk if you:
• Have fair skin
• Have a history of sunburns
• Are frequently in the sun without sunscreen or sun-protective clothing
• Use indoor tanning beds
• Had an organ transplant
Squamous cell carcinoma grows slowly but can also grow deep within your skin, causing the cancer cells to spread. Therefore, early detection and treatment are critical.
Basal cell carcinoma
Itching is also a potential symptom of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer in the world. Although it’s most common in people with fair skin, people of all skin types and colors get basal cell carcinoma.
The primary causes of basal cell carcinoma are sun exposure and indoor tanning beds – in fact, using a tanning bed just once increases your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by nearly 30%. You’re also at higher risk if you have:
• Skin that rarely tans
• Skin that freckles easily
• Naturally blond or red hair
• Blue or green eyes
• A history of sunburns
With early detection and treatment, basal cell carcinoma is usually not life-threatening and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
What types of rashes or spots are actually skin cancer?
There are many types of pre-cancerous and cancerous rashes and spots that The Derm can identify and treat for you. Examples include:
• Actinic keratosis (crusty or scaly bumps that appear on sun-exposed skin)
• Actinic cheilitis (crusty or scaly bumps on your upper lip)
• Cutaneous horns (horn-like growths that often emerge from pre-cancerous and cancerous spots)
Certain rashes and spots can develop into squamous cell carcinoma if they aren’t promptly removed by a dermatologist.
What does a cancerous rash look like?
Cancerous rashes and growths often vary in appearance. For instance, squamous cell carcinoma may crust or bleed and appear as:
• A wart-like growth
• A raised growth with a rough surface and an indentation in the center
• A scaly red or pink patch with irregular borders that may bleed easily
Basal cell carcinoma typically appears as one or more of the following:
• A reddish, raised patch that crusts or itches (but does not hurt)
• A shiny red, pink, white, or translucent bump
• A pink growth with an elevated border and crusted indentation in the center
• A scar-like white, yellow, or waxy area (usually with a poorly-defined border)
Open sores that crust, ooze, or bleed for weeks can also indicate squamous or basal cell carcinoma. When you visit The Derm, we’ll carefully examine you for any potential signs of skin cancer.
How can you tell if a rash is serious?
The skin experts at The Derm can confirm if you have a non-cancerous rash or need a biopsy. Either way, you’ll leave our office with answers.
Be sure to contact us immediately if you have a fever or the rash:
• Appears suddenly and spreads quickly
• Is all over your body
• Is painful
• Looks infected
Schedule an appointment today
Is your skin trying to tell you something? If you have frequent itching or notice any changes or suspicious marks on your skin, don’t ignore them. High-quality skin care is just a click away! Schedule an appointment with The Derm today.