BackgroundEvery year several lives are lost to cancer. Some cancer patients develop skin changes that are caused by an underlying internal malignancy. This paper will be discussing both unspecific skin symptoms and specific paraneoplastic dermatoses that may arise in conjunction with cancer.
MethodsThe paper is based on scientific papers found through non-systematic searches on PubMed and authoritative dermatological encyclopedias and textbooks.
ResultsUnspecific skin symptoms, such as flushing, asteatosis and pruritus, may in some cases be caused by an underlying internal malignancy. After excluding the dermatoses and non-malignant systemic diseases that may cause these symptoms, one should consider the possibility of an underlying cancer. A thorough medical history and general examination should be performed in these cases. Because these symptoms are so common, it may prove challenging deciding which patients should receive further cancer screening.Paraneoplastic dermatoses are rear skin disorders caused by internal malignancies. The dermatoses may occur before, during or after the cancer diagnosis has been made. A few of the dermatoses are associated with specific types of cancer. The dermatosis and the cancer tend to run a parallel course. A rapid course, sudden appearance later in life, atypical clinical presentation, and a particular and characteristic morphology all suggest an underlying internal malignancy. Several hypotheses regarding the pathogenesis of these paraneoplastic dermatoses have been suggested, but few conclusions have been reached.
Conclusions Unspecific skin symptoms such as itch, dry skin and night sweats may be associated with internal malignancies. Specific paraneoplastic dermatoses are rear, but knowledge of these disorders may provide an opportunity for earlier diagnosis and treatment.