If you notice this on your skin, you could be at risk for 13 cancers. This skin issue can increase your risk of more than a dozen different types of cancer.
There are more than one hundred types of cancers, and even more factors that can put you at risk of developing one of these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are a handful of general risk factors for all types of cancer that are quite well-known, like smoking, obesity, and a family history of the disease. However, according to wide-ranging research, you may also want to look at your skin—and not just for skin cancer. If you notice something, in particular, cropping up on your skin, you could be at an increased risk for several different types of cancer—13, in fact. Read on to find out more about the connection, and for more on your cancer risk.
People with psoriasis have an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer.
Several studies have determined that psoriasis—a skin condition that results in scaly red patches on your body—is a risk factor for many cancers. The most recent research on the topic was a 2019 review of 58 studies published in JAMA Dermatology, which found that people with psoriasis are 18 percent more likely to develop cancer compared to those who do not have psoriasis. In particular, the study found that people with psoriasis had an elevated risk of developing lymphoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer (keratinocyte), esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Earlier studies have determined an associated risk with even more cancers, as well. According to one 2013 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that people with psoriasis are also particularly at risk for cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, colon, lungs, and kidneys. And another 2013 review of 37 studies published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology concluded that psoriasis could increase one’s risk of respiratory tract cancer and urinary tract cancer.
Psoriasis most commonly appears as red patches on the skin.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that appears as red, itchy, scaly patches on your skin that go through cycles of flare-ups, according to the Mayo Clinic. These patches are triggered by weather, stress, alcohol, infections, and certain medications, and will most commonly be on your lower back, elbows, knees, legs, soles of your feet, scalp, face, and/or palms. You may also experience other accompanying symptoms like dry, cracked skin that bleeds; itching; burning; soreness; thickened, pitted, or ridged nails; and swollen or stiff joints.
The National Psoriasis Foundation says that 2 to 3 percent of the global population has psoriasis, including more than 8 million Americans. Unfortunately, as the experts at the Mayo Clinic note, the condition has no cure.
People with severe psoriasis are also more likely to die from cancer.
If your psoriasis covers more than 10 percent of your skin, you have severe psoriasis, according to WebMD. And the 2019 meta-analysis published in JAMA Dermatology found that people with severe psoriasis are also 22 percent more likely to die from cancer than people who do not have psoriasis. In particular, people with severe psoriasis have an increased risk of dying from esophageal, liver, and pancreatic cancers.
The researchers did not find a significant increased risk of cancer mortality among all severities of psoriasis, however.
The link between psoriasis and cancer isn’t clear yet, but it could be due to inflammation.
While it’s clear there is a link between psoriasis and cancer, researchers are still trying to determine the specific reason. According to Maryann Mikhail, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in psoriasis, there are a few theories as to why psoriasis may increase someone’s risk of several types of cancer. One of the most prominent is that psoriasis heightens the level of inflammation in your body long term, and chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer.
“The thing to know is that psoriasis is not just a skin disease, it’s a systemic disease that affects the body inside and out,” Mikhail explains. “Also the skin is a marker for the level of inflammation—the more severe the skin disease, the more inflammation is circulating in the body.”