Close up of freckly skin on a woman's shoulder

Should I Be Concerned About Skin Cancer If I Have Psoriasis? A Q&A with Dr. Truong

By Beth W. Orenstein
April 22, 2024

This article is part of a Q&A series in which a healthcare professional in our community answers your frequently asked questions.

We asked: “I have psoriasis. Should I get regular skin cancer screenings?”

Allison Truong, M.D.: Everyone should be screened regularly for skin cancer, and that includes people with psoriasis.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they turn 70. Every hour of the day, more than two people in America die of skin cancer. When cancer is detected early, the chance of survival is much greater—even for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. With early detection, 99% of people diagnosed with melanoma survive, the foundation says.

But if you have psoriasis, skin cancer screenings are particularly important.

Studies have shown that people living with psoriasis are more likely to develop nonmelanoma skin cancers. People taking certain psoriasis treatments, including psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, should be even more cautious, as these drugs have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer. PUVA therapy, in particular, raises the risk for squamous cell cancer. This risk is slightly higher if you have had more than 250 ultraviolet light therapy treatments in your lifetime.

Examine your skin using a handheld mirror and a full-length mirror regularly to check your whole body, including your neck, back, and buttocks, for changes in your skin. Look out for anything growing, changing, or bleeding, which could suggest a precancerous lesion.

Also schedule a full-body scan with your dermatologist at least once a year. Your doctor will determine whether any suspicious spots may need a biopsy to rule out cancer. You need these formal skin cancer screenings even if you don’t find anything during your regular self-exams, since dermatologists are trained to detect things early that you might not be able to see yet.

The screening with your dermatologist should take no more than 10–15 minutes, but doing so regularly can help prevent a more threatening skin issue. The best way to catch skin cancers early is with regular skin exams.

You May Also Like: