HealthDay News — The presence and intensity of pain and itch may be indicators of skin cancer, according to a study published in JAMA Dermatology.

To examine the correlation between pain and itch and histologic features of skin cancers, Gil Yosipovitch, MD, of Temple University in Philadelphia, and colleagues studied 268 patients with 339 histopathologically confirmed cutaneous neoplasms, including basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas in a prospective study.

The prevalence of itch was 36.9% and the prevalence of pain was 28.2% across all skin cancers, but these symptoms were mainly absent in melanomas, the researchers found.

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Significant correlations were seen for pain intensity with degree of inflammation (mild or non vs. moderate or marked; P<0.001); presence of neutrophils in inflammation (mild or non vs. moderate or marked; P=0.003); perineural invasion (present vs. absent, P<0.001; invasion depth, P=0.001); and largest diameter length of skin lesion (P<0.003). 

There were significant correlations for itch intensity with degree of inflammation (mild or none vs. moderate or marked; P=0.001) and eosinophil presence (present vs. absent; P=0.02).

“These findings support the theory that itch emanates from the upper layers of the skin, whereas pain is associated with deeper processes,” concluded the researchers. “This study also reports that a simple bedside assessment for the presence and intensity of pain or itch is an easily implementable tool for physicians evaluating suspicious skin lesions.”


  1. Yosipovitch G et al. JAMA Dermatology. 2014; doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.895