Rashes can occur for a wide variety of different reasons, so it’s difficult to determine if one could be cancer just by looking at it. Skin rashes are commonly caused by allergies, infections, exposure to heat, and irritation from chemicals such as in washing detergents.
However, certain types of unexplained rashes can be a sign of skin cancer. Most people think of moles and dark patches on the skin when they think about skin cancer, but a rash can also be associated with skin cancer.
The most effective way to identify a skin cancer rash is to examine your skin on a regular basis. If you notice an unexplained rash that’s not going away on its own, it is recommended to visit a health care provider or dermatologist for advice.
While itchy skin is commonly associated with rashes, not all rashes are itchy, and not all itchiness is accompanied by a rash. Experiencing itchy skin without visible redness could be a sign of skin cancer.
Medically known as pruritus, itchy skin without a rash is sometimes a sign of a more serious condition such as skin or liver cancer. To be safe, talk to a health care provider if you experience persistent and unexplained itching.
There are a variety of rashes associated with skin cancer, so it can be helpful to know what to look for. Knowing the warning signs means you can seek medical advice sooner, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
One of the most common blood-related cancers is mycosis fungoides, a type of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This condition causes the T cells to become cancerous and can lead to skin lesions.
Mycosis fungoides is more commonly diagnosed in people over 50 and is often characterized by scaly, red patches of skin. These patches are generally itchy and usually show up on the lower abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.
As growth continues, mycosis fungoides can develop into raised lesions called plaques. These plaques are often purple or brown and can develop into tumors in some cases.
Sezary syndrome is a type of peripheral T-cell lymphoma, like mycosis fungoides. Sezary syndrome is rare, and health care providers can typically diagnose it with multiple blood tests.
Leukemia is cancer in the lymphatic system, blood-forming tissues, or bone marrow. It is one of the most well-known forms of cancer that can cause a skin cancer rash.
There are different kinds of leukemia, each with their own specific signs and symptoms. The most common signs include fever, persistent fatigue, unexplained weight loss, bone pain, and a rash of tiny red spots clustered together.
Kaposi sarcoma is a form of cancer that begins in blood and lymphatic vessels. Kaposi sarcoma can cause purple-toned lesions across the face, feet, and legs.
A rash from this type of cancer can also appear in the mouth or genital area. In severe cases, Kaposi sarcoma can cause lesions on organs such as the lungs.
While some cancers can lead to a skin rash, rashes can also be caused by a variety of other much less dangerous sources.
Most rashes are commonly harmless and unlikely to cause permanent damage. If you notice an unexplained rash suddenly appearing on your skin, visit a health care provider for advice and treatment.
Many long-term skin issues may cause rashes.
Psoriasis is one of the most common chronic skin conditions. Psoriasis is caused by skin cells shedding too quickly, building up and causing red, scaly patches across the skin. Psoriasis isn’t considered harmful and can be intermittent. It is typically very itchy and can cause bleeding in severe cases.
Another very common chronic skin ailment is eczema (also called atopic dermatitis). People of any age can experience eczema. Eczema causes red, itchy, dry, thick, and cracked patches of skin. Eczema can also be accompanied by incidences of asthma. Similar to psoriasis, eczema can be intermittent and isn’t likely to be an ever-present condition.
Rashes as a result of allergic reactions are incredibly common. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms very quickly and happen when the body is exposed to a particular allergenic substance (such as certain foods).
Common symptoms of allergic reactions may include a raised, itchy red rash known as hives along with dry, cracked skin. More serious symptoms can involve sudden shortness of breath, swelling, and nausea. If you experience an extreme allergic reaction, it’s important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Lots of skin infections can cause rash-like symptoms; one of the most well-known is herpes. There are two separate types of herpes infections: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is transmitted via oral contact and causes lesions on or around the mouth. HSV-2 is known as genital herpes and is transmitted through sexual contact.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause painful, blister-like sores. Herpes infections are chronic, but they are highly unlikely to be active all the time. After a flare-up, the infection can lay dormant and not flare up again for a period of time.
Other common skin infections include bacterial cellulitis, which can cause a red area of skin that tends to expand. Viral conditions such as measles can also cause rash-like symptoms. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also cause a rash.
Fungal infections are more common in damp areas that aren’t dried properly (like between your toes). Fungal infections can lead to intense itchiness and cracked skin.
Some cancers can lead to a rash on your skin, so it can be helpful to be aware of the signs to look out for. Checking your skin regularly for changes is a good way to monitor your health and get treatment quickly if you need it.
There are many different conditions that can lead to a rash, from allergic reactions to common skin conditions. No matter the cause, talk to a health care provider about any rash you’re concerned about.
Examining your skin regularly and educating yourself about skin cancer will equip you to identify any unusual changes and act quickly. Be sure to visit a health care provider or dermatologist if you notice a rash. They can provide you with information, a diagnosis, and treatment if necessary.