Telling the Difference Between Skin Cancer vs. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an incurable but manageable skin condition that accelerates skin cell production. This overactive cell production causes red patches and formations called plaques to appear on the skin’s surface. These patches and plaques can be itchy, sore, and painful. Skin cancer, on the other hand, is a disease in which malignant cells develop in the tissues of your skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States, affecting 1 in every 5 Americans. The three main types include:

BCC and SCC are the most prevalent types of skin cancer. While melanoma is rarer, it is much more aggressive and dangerous.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

The symptoms of psoriasis are:

  • Red patches covered with silvery-white scales or plaques
  • Sensations of itching, soreness, and burning
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed sometimes
  • Thick, pitted fingernails

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose because it usually develops as a small and simple change on your skin.

You may notice a sore that won’t heal or unusual spots or bumps, which may appear:

  • Raised, waxy, pearly, or shiny
  • Taut and firm
  • Oddly colored, such as violet, blue, or yellow
  • Scaly, flaky, or bleeding

How to Identify Psoriasis

When psoriasis flares, the outbreak can cover a large section of your body. However, a flare can also be small and cover only a few areas. The most common sites include the:

  • Head, particularly the scalp
  • Back
  • Elbows
  • Knees

Dermatologists classify each type of psoriasis differently, but most go through cycles of activity and inactivity. This chronic skin condition may be severe for a couple of weeks or months, and then your symptoms may disappear completely. Still, each patient’s psoriasis cycle differs and is often unpredictable.

How to Identify Skin Cancer vs. Psoriasis

Skin cancer commonly develops on areas most exposed to sunlight and UV rays, including the:

  • Face
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Arms and hands

Skin cancer, as mentioned earlier, can be difficult to detect as it mostly appears as a “harmless” freckle or mole. The key to identifying skin cancer is knowing your ABCDEs. And, unlike patches and spots that develop due to psoriasis, those caused by skin cancer won’t fade and come back later on. They will remain on your skin and most likely grow and evolve until a doctor removes and treats them.

Psoriasis Treatments 

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning there is no known cure for it. The good news is there are treatments that can help reduce symptoms.

Psoriasis treatments have three basic categories. Your doctor may suggest one of the following treatments, or they may recommend a combination. The right treatment for you will depend on the severity of your psoriasis.

  • Topical treatments are prescription solutions, including creams and lotions, which you can lather directly to your skin.
  • Light therapy entails exposing your skin to controlled doses of natural sunlight or special ultraviolet light in an attempt to diminish the symptoms of psoriasis. Keep in mind that you should never try light therapy on your own or use tanning beds because they are not the same thing as getting treatments from a medical professional. Making this mistake can make your skin condition worse.
  • Systemic medications are oral or injected drugs. Retinoids and methotrexate are some of the most commonly used systemic medications.

Treatments for Skin Cancer

Treatment for skin cancer depends on the overall size and severity of the disease. Although the typical treatments for skin cancer include surgery and chemotherapy, advancements in medical technology have introduced more targeted and less harmful treatments such as immunotherapy or biologic therapy. Immunotherapy uses a patient’s immune system to fight cancer, stimulating and boosting the body’s natural defenses to work harder and smarter to find and attack cancer cells.

Here at New Hope Unlimited, immunotherapy for skin cancer is one of the many treatments we specialize in. Contact us at 480-757-6573 if you wish to schedule a consultation and learn more about this option.

Risk Factors for Psoriasis

Though anyone can have psoriasis, certain risk factors increase the chances of developing this skin condition.

  • Family history. If one of your parents has psoriasis, you have a high risk of developing it as well. If both your mother and father have psoriasis, your risk is even higher.
  • Obesity. Overweight or obese men and women are more prone to developing psoriasis, according to a 2019 study.
  • Stress. Stress impacts your immune system in countless negative ways. For one, if your immune system is overly stressed, it may increase your odds for psoriasis. If you already have psoriasis, being stressed can cause your skin condition to flare.
  • Smoking. This harmful habit increases your risk of developing psoriasis, reports a study published in the National Library of Medicine.
  • Chronic infections. Having HIV, a consistent strep throat, and other long-term infections can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of developing psoriasis.

Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

Everyone is susceptible to skin cancer, but certain risk factors raise your odds. From long-term sun exposure to your complexion, hair color, and eye color, learn more about the risk factors for skin cancer here.

When to See a Doctor

Consult a doctor if you notice an unusual or suspicious area on your skin. A doctor’s first step in making an accurate diagnosis is to perform a physical examination. They will study the area of skin you’re worried about and ask you a series of questions about your medical history.

After which, your doctor may schedule you to undergo a skin biopsy. During the procedure, your doctor will remove a small portion of your skin, which they will send to a lab for further testing. A lab professional will then examine the cells of that portion of skin and let your doctor know about their findings.

In most cases, a skin biopsy can detect the presence of cancer cells. With those results, you and your healthcare provider can discuss your diagnosis and treatment options. If skin cancer is the cause of your outbreaks, the sooner you undergo treatment with New Hope Unlimited, the better your prognosis will be. Contact us today.

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