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Pain or Itching Could Be An Indicator of Skin Cancer

By HERWriter
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Pain or Itching Could Indicate Skin Cancer MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

If a suspicious skin lesion is painful or itches, it could be an indicator of skin cancer according to a recent study out of the Department of Dermatology at Temple University School of Medicine.

Over 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in two million people annually in this country. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.

"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," said Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, director of the Temple Itch Center.

The study found that about 37 percent of skin cancer lesions are accompanied by itching, while 28 percent involve pain. Non-melanoma skin cancers, specifically basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are more likely than melanoma to involve itch or pain, reported Temple News Center.

Researchers looked at the records of 238 patients with confirmed skin cancer lesions. There were about 350 skin lesions in the group. Patients answered questions about how itchy or painful the cancerous skin lesions were.

Melanoma skin lesions were reported as less itchy than basal cell or squamous cell lesions. The greater the depth of the basal or squamous cell lesion, the more itchy/painful they were.

Melanoma occurs less often than basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, however, it is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Pain and itch often went hand in hand reported Sciencedaily.com. They noted that, “45.6 percent of lesions associated with itch also had pain; and 60 percent of painful lesions also involved itch.”

The study, which was published in the July 23rd issue of JAMA Dermatology, shows the importance of evaluating these qualities in suspicious skin lesions.

Yosipovitch hopes the study will encourage doctors to develop a ranking scale using the symptoms of pain and/or itch as a method to determine whether patients may have skin cancer.


Pain and itch may be signs of skin cancer. ScienceDaily.com. Retrieved September 6, 2014 from

Yosipovitch, Gil et al., Association of Pain and Itch With Depth of Invasion and Inflammatory Cell Constitution in Skin Cancer. JAMA Dermatology, 2014.

Study shows that pain and itch may be signs of skin cancer. Temple University News Center. Retrieved September 6, 2014.

Painful, Itchy Patches Could Be Sign of Skin Cancer. WebMD. Retrieved September 6, 2014.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/499625/michele_blacksberg.html

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I just had squamous cell carcinoma removed from my leg. It did start out as a scaley, itchy spot that grew very quickly. It changed in elevation and became quite painful. This happened within a three week time period. It is an agg ressive form of skin cancer. My dermatologist told me it is the only type that is painful. I did not think it was cancer because of the pain. Act quickly as it took me an additional three weeks to get an appointment to see my dermatologist. I had the Mohs surgery, very pleased, had clean margins.

October 29, 2014 - 6:23am

Anon #1 has the right idea.  Follow your own sense of feeling something should be checked. 

I think what is important is for all of us not to think, "Oh, this spot itches so it must just be a bite or an allergic reaction."

Don't assume an itching area shouldn't be watched and have checked if you are concerned.

thanks for commenting,


October 15, 2014 - 3:16pm
EmpowHER Guest

As someone who has been diagnosed with melanoma twice, neither of my spots itched. Neither was particularly interesting to either the dermatologist, or the oncologist, but they did a biopsy because I asked them to, and just to be safe. Follow your gut, and get it biopsied if you're the least bit suspicious, because doctors aren't always right.

October 14, 2014 - 7:53pm
EmpowHER Guest

a lot of things can be a "sign" of cancer, but too many GPs ignore the signs until its too late. Wake up and get people referred so cancer can be ruled out earlier. Rule out the worst things first. Most other things can be dealt with but once cancer has gone too far you have no chance. Insist on a scan and get it ruled out. GPs need to stop fobbing people off.

October 14, 2014 - 8:24am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Welldone to your comment. My husband was nearly killed by GP for cancer and I have to addmit to hospital by myself for my Gallstone.

October 15, 2014 - 5:21am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.