Is skin cancer itchy?

Did you know that itchiness can be a sign of skin cancer — but not always? Let’s learn more about itchy spots on the skin and when you should be concerned about a malignancy.

An itchy spot on your skin can be a sign of skin cancer, but not every itchy spot is cancerous; it could also be a symptom of a different dermatological condition. Similarly, not every skin cancer will feel itchy — so, just because your spot isn’t showing any symptoms, doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

What type of skin cancer is itchy?

Itchiness can be a sign of non-melanoma skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and usually develops on sun-exposed areas of the body and face, especially in older people. Most BCCs are caused by sun exposure. Signs can include:

  • A shiny pink, red, pearly, or translucent bump.
  • Pink skin growths or lesions with raised borders that are crusted in the centre.
  • Raised red patch of skin that may crust or itch, but is usually not painful.
  • A white, yellow, or waxy area with a poorly defined border that may resemble a scar.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and is also common on sun-exposed areas where sun damage occurs. Signs can include:

  • Persistent, scaly red patches with irregular borders that may bleed easily.
  • Open sore that does not go away.
  • A raised growth with a rough surface that is indented in the middle.
  • A wart-like growth.

What are the warning signs of skin cancer?

Always keep in mind the ABCDE guide to help identify some skin cancers, such as melanoma. This includes asymmetrical moles, moles with irregular borders, moles larger than six millimetres, moles with multiple colours, and moles that are growing.

Other signs of skin cancer can include:

  • A sore that won’t heal. It may look shiny, pink, red, or pearly. It may feel sore, rough, or raised.
  • A lump. It may be slowly growing, or it may once have been flat but now it is bumpy to the touch.
  • A spot that looks like an ulcer. It may look like an area of skin that has broken down.
  • A red patch. It may be itchy or irritated.
  • A new or changing freckle. It may be new or begin to grow/change in colour or size over time.

If you have any spots that are sore, itchy, new, changing, or stand out from the others, it’s important to get a full-body skin check as soon as possible.

How can you tell if a spot is skin cancer?

In addition to self-monitoring your skin at home every few months (checking for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer mentioned above), it is also essential to see a doctor with advanced training in skin cancer medicine for a full-body skin examination every year, even if you haven’t found anything suspicious. You should see them more often if the doctor recommends it.

This is because a dermoscopic examination is the only way to know for sure whether a spot is skin cancer. You cannot always see skin cancer with the naked eye. The doctor will examine your entire body with a dermatoscope, which is a special skin microscope that allows them to see beneath the skin to identify malignancies.

If the doctor finds a suspicious spot, they might take a photograph to be analysed, and they might take a biopsy which is sent to a dermatopathology laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.

If you have an itchy spot on your skin, remember that an early skin cancer diagnosis provides the best chance of successful treatment and cure.

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