An itchy skin rash could be a warning sign of skin cancer. But, itching is very common and can occur for many reasons other than cancer. Some possible explanations include dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis, an insect bite or an allergic reaction to a medication, cosmetic or poison ivy.
Due to the wide range of potential causes, itchy skin alone is usually not a reason to be overly concerned. Unless the itching is very bothersome or lasts beyond a few days, home remedies such as applying an anti-itch cream, moisturizer or cool compress may be all that is needed to improve comfort until the itching resolves on its own.
When is itching a sign of skin cancer?
Itchy skin could be a sign of skin cancer if it is accompanied by:
- A new skin growth or lesion
- A change in a mole, such as a spread of pigment beyond the border
- A sore that continually crusts over but doesn’t heal
- A rough or scaly skin patch
- A pink, pearly bump that bleeds easily
Because it can be difficult to distinguish between a cancerous and noncancerous skin condition, it’s important to promptly discuss any new, changing or unusual rashes or moles with a physician.
What types of skin cancer can cause itching?
When itching is traced to skin cancer, the cancer is usually a non-melanoma type, such as squamous cell carcinoma or, less often, basal cell carcinoma. In general, pain and tenderness are more commonly associated with skin cancer than itchy skin, but cancer can potentially irritate the fine nerve endings in the skin and cause an itching sensation.
An oncologist in the Cutaneous Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center can help you determine if your itchy skin lesion or mole is cancerous. You can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. Our multispecialty team provides a full range of screening, diagnostic, treatment and supportive care services in one location without the need for referrals.