Cutaneous metastases or metastatic skin lesions from lung cancer are rare; skin lesions are only the 13th most common site of metastases from lung cancer. Cutaneous metastases are usually found close to the site of the primary tumor, but they may occur anywhere on the skin. Lymphatic and vascular routes are the most common pathways for cancers to spread.

Patients who present with skin metastases usually have multiple metastatic sites throughout the body. Mean survival is approximately 5 to 6 months.

Metastatic skin lesions do not have a characteristic presentation, as the color, shape, location, and symptoms can vary. Histologic presentation also varies, as cells from metastatic lung cancer may be poorly differentiated. The diagnosis is confirmed when histologic findings from the metastatic lesion and the primary site are similar.

When skin metastases occur, the cancer is often so widespread that the condition is untreatable, and palliative care may be recommended. Local treatments, including cryotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgical excision, are other options that can help improve the patient’s quality of life.

Dagan Cloutier, MPAS, PA-C, practices in a multispeciality orthopedic group in the southern New Hampshire region and is editor in chief of the Journal of Orthopedics for Physician Assistants (JOPA).


  1. Mollet TW, Garcia CA, Koester G. Skin metastases from lung cancer. Dermatol Online J. 2009;15(5):1. 
Loading Quiz...