Skin

25 July 2014

Prickly, itchy skin lesions could spell skin cancer

Research indicates that skin lesions that are itchy or painful should raise high concerns for non-melanoma skin cancers.

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Painful or itchy skin lesions could be a warning sign of skin cancer, researchers report.

"Patients sometimes have multiple lesions that are suspicious looking, and those that are itchy or painful should raise high concerns for non-melanoma skin cancers," study author Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, chairman of dermatology at Temple University School of Medicine, said in a Temple University Health System news release.

Read: The danger signs of a lesion

Researchers looked at the medical records of 268 patients who were confirmed to have skin cancer lesions between 2010 and 2011. The patients were treated at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre and had almost 350 lesions in total.

Melanoma far more dangerous


The patients answered questions about the levels of pain and itchiness in their lesions. More than one-third of the skin cancer lesions itched, according to the study. Just under 30 percent were painful. Many people reported that their lesions were both painful and itchy.

Melanoma lesions were the least likely to be painful or itchy. Other skin cancers, especially basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, were more likely to be itchy or painful, the findings showed. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more dangerous, according to the American Cancer Society.

Read: Skin biopsy

"The study highlights the importance of a simple bedside evaluation for the presence and intensity of pain or itch as an easily implementable tool for clinicians in evaluating suspicious skin lesions," the study authors wrote.

Yosipovitch hopes the study will encourage the development of a ranking scale to help doctors use the symptoms of pain or itch – or both – to figure out whether patients have skin cancer.

Read more:

Single dose of new antibiotic could cure skin infections
Stem cell therapy – a cure for psoriasis?
Skin cancer phone apps not very accurate


Image: Dermatology woman from Shutterstock


 

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Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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