What’s the Difference Between Psoriasis and Skin Cancer?

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes your skin cell production to speed up. The overactive cell production causes your skin to develop red patches and plaques, often with whitish-silvery scales. These patches and scales may be sore, itchy, and even painful.


Skin Cancer

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells develop in your skin’s tissues. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in America today. It affects 5 million Americans each year.

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • basal cell cancer
  • squamous cell cancer
  • melanoma

Basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer are the two most common types of skin cancer. Melanoma is more rare, but it’s also much more dangerous.

These cancers typically develop on areas most exposed to direct sunlight, including:

  • head
  • face
  • neck
  • chest
  • arms
  • hands

Psoriasis Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?

The symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • red patches covered with whitish-silvery scales or plaques
  • small patches of scales
  • dry, cracked skin that may sometimes bleed
  • sensations of itching, burning, and soreness
  • thick, pitted fingernails

Skin Cancer Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer can be hard to detect and diagnose. That’s because it often develops as just a simple change in your skin. You may notice a sore that doesn’t heal. You may also notice unusual spots or bumps, which may appear:

  • raised, pearly, waxy, or shiny
  • firm and taut
  • oddly colored, such as violet, yellow, or blue
  • crusty, scaly, or bleeding

Psoriasis Identification

How to Identify Psoriasis

Psoriasis outbreaks can be widespread and cover a large section of your body. They can also be smaller and cover just a few small areas. The body parts most commonly affected by psoriasis include:

  • elbows
  • knees
  • feet
  • hands
  • scalp

Each type of psoriasis is identified differently, but most go through cycles of activity and inactivity. The skin condition may be worse for a few weeks or months, and then the symptoms may fade or disappear completely. Each person’s cycle is different and often unpredictable.


Skin Cancer Identification

How to Identify Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can be difficult to identify because it often looks like a mole or a freckle. The key to identifying skin cancer is in knowing your ABCDEs:


Some skin cancers don’t grow evenly. In other words, one side of the spot will not match the other.


If the edges of a suspicious spot are ragged, blurred, or irregular, it may be cancerous.


Cancerous spots can be brown, but they may also be black, red, yellow, white, or navy blue. Often, the color will be uneven within a single spot.


Moles and freckles rarely grow or grow so slowly the change is almost impossible to detect. Skin cancer, however, can grow rapidly.


You may be able to detect changes in the spot over the course of a few weeks or months.

Unlike psoriasis, skin cancer spots will not disappear and come back later. They will remain, and mostly likely grow and change, until they’re removed and treated.


Psoriasis Treatment

How Is Psoriasis Treated?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. That means it cannot be cured. It can, however, be treated to reduce the symptoms.

Psoriasis treatments fall into three basic categories. Your doctor may use only one of these types of treatments, or they may suggest a combination. The type of treatment you use largely depends on the severity of the psoriasis.

Treatments include the following:

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are prescription creams, lotions, and solutions that are applied directly to your skin. They may help ease the symptoms of psoriasis.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is a type of therapy where your skin is exposed to controlled doses of natural sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light in an attempt to reduce symptoms. You should never attempt light therapy on your own because you might get too much light, which can make your condition worse.

Systemic Medications

Systemic medications are oral or injected medications, which include retinoids and methotrexate (Trexall). These are often reserved for individuals with strong cases of psoriasis and many of these treatments can only be used for short periods of time.


Skin Cancer Treatment

How Is Skin Cancer Treated?

Treatment for skin cancer depends on the size and severity of the skin cancer. Typical treatments include the following:

  • Surgically removing skin cancer is the best way to prevent it from spreading or growing.
  • Radiation therapy involves beams of high-powered energy that can destroy cancer cells. It’s often used if your doctor cannot remove all of the skin cancer during surgery.
  • Chemotherapy is an intravenous (IV) drug treatment that kills cancer cells. Some lotions and creams with cancer-killing medicines may be used if you have skin cancer that’s confined to the top layers of your skin.
  • Photodynamic therapy is a combination of medicine and laser light that’s used to destroy cancer cells.
  • Biologic therapy involves medicine that boosts your body’s natural ability to fight cancer.

Treatments for skin cancer are most successful when the cancer is found early, particularly before it spreads to other organs in a process known as
“metastasis.” The cancer is more likely to grow and spread to nearby tissues and organs if it’s not detected and treated early.

Psoriasis Risk Factors

What Are the Risk Factors for Psoriasis?

Anyone can develop psoriasis. Certain risk factors increase the chances that you’ll develop the skin condition.

Family History

Psoriasis has a strong genetic connection. If one of your parents has psoriasis, the odds that you’ll develop it are much greater. If both your parents have it, your risk is even higher.

Chronic Infections

Long-term infections, such as HIV or persistent strep throat, can lower your immune system. A weakened immune system may increase your risk of developing psoriasis.


People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of psoriasis. Psoriasis plaques may develop in skin creases and folds.


Stress, like an infection, can impact your immune system. A stressed immune system may increase your odds for psoriasis.


You have an increased risk of developing psoriasis if you smoke. People who smoke are also more likely to develop a severe form of the disease.


Skin Cancer Risk Factors

What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?

Anyone can develop skin cancer. Certain risk factors increase your odds for being one of those people.

Long-Term Sun Exposure

A history of exposure to the sun because of occupational or recreational reasons can increase your risk. Your chances of skin cancer are even higher if you have a history of sunburns.

Complexion, Hair Color, and Eye Color

People with light-colored skin, red or blonde hair, or blue or green eyes may have a higher risk of skin cancer.

Family History

Certain genes are linked to skin cancer. You may have inherited genes that increase your risk of skin cancer if you have a parent or grandparent who has had skin cancer.


Having more moles than the average person puts you at an increased risk for skin cancer.


People over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer, but skin cancer can develop at any age.

A Weakened Immune System

If your immune system is affected by chronic infections or stress, your odds for developing skin cancer may be higher.

Seeing a Doctor

When to See Your Doctor

See your doctor if a suspicious area on your skin has developed and you want your doctor to examine it. Your doctor’s first step in making a diagnosis will be to conduct a physical examination. They will study the spot in question and ask you a few personal history questions.

From there, your doctor may want to conduct a skin biopsy if they’re still unsure of the diagnosis. During a skin biopsy, your doctor will remove a section of the skin. They will then send it to a lab. A lab professional will examine the suspicious skin at a cellular level.

In most cases, a diagnosis can be made from a skin biopsy. With those results, you and your doctor will begin to discuss your treatment options and the outlook.

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