Skin Cancer & Rashes

We have seen many different kinds and types of skin cancers at New Hope Unlimited. Some skin cancers are very obvious and some are not so much. It’s always a concern when someone finds a rash or lesion on their skin that they aren’t sure what it is.  The first thing that usually is thought of is whether or not it might be skin cancer.  Most often a rash on the skin is often caused by an allergy or reaction to an outside source.  Jon Johnson wrote an article concerning this issue which was reviewed by Yemeni Ranchod, PhD, MS.

A cancer-related skin rash is caused by a cancerous or precancerous condition that produces some abnormal changes you notice in the skin.  These can indicate cancer or cancer-related problems, but some of the symptoms on the skin are signs of an underlying condition that need to be identified and treated.  We all need to understand these potential causes and when to seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment.

It’s easy to confuse a noncancerous rash with cancer.  Psoriasis is one of these conditions where the person will experience persistent red patches of skin that might itch or burn.  Scaling and drying skin that cracks and sometimes bleed, accompanies psoriasis.

Cancer rashes may also be similar with a scaly appearance of cracking or bleeding.  They are more likely to contain oddly colored patches of skin and not just red.  You may see raised bluish or yellow bumps and the skin may have a waxy and shiny appearance with asymmetrical markings.  These particular rashes will also last much longer than other conditions and will grow in size and shape and into deeper layers of the skin.  It is usually in places where it is visible, so catching it at an early stage is easier than with other types of cancer.  If you are uncertain about a rash, be sure to consult with your physician right away.

Melanomas present as a rash and develop from the pigment-containing cells in the skin called melanocytes that often look like misshapen moles and would not easily be mistaken for a rash.  Any cancerous or precancerous rashes should be treated with the same care as you would treat a suspected melanoma.  Solar keratosis, or actinic keratosis, occurs when an area of the body has been exposed to too much sun and you may develop a small, scaly patch on the skin with a red edge that might itch or burn.  This might be considered as a precancerous rash and could develop into cancer.

One type of cancer that commonly starts as a rash is basal cell carcinoma.  You will find these develop on exposed areas of the body as a pale patch of silicon or waxy looking skin patch at first.  It may rise to form a bump with an indentation in the middle.  Other areas of the body might show more like a brownish patch of skin or irregular scar until it progresses and becomes crusty, bleed or ooze in some areas.

Actinic cheilitis is a precancerous rash developing normally on the lips and may develop into a squamous cell carcinoma.  Squamous cell carcinomas develop as a firm, rough lump on the skin that develop and change their form.  Cutaneous horn is a buildup of keratin cells that is protein that makes up fingernails that can pile together to create a growth.  Some rashes may be a sign of other types of cancer, such as lymphoma that can grow in many organs or tissues.

Mycosis fungoides is a type of lymphoma and met with aggressive treatment.  Leukemia develops in the bone marrow and may develop tiny red spots on their skin from broken blood vessels.  Kaposi sarcoma is a cancerous tumor developing from the cells lining the lymph or blood vessels with deep red, purple or brown blotches on the skin.

Regular checkups with a dermatologist are recommended if you see any changes in the skin to rule out any type of cancer.  Protect your skin from the sun as much as possible.

Dr Fredda Branyon