Learn about the five types of hand eczema, how doctors diagnose it, current treatment options, as well as medications in development.
Published On: Jun 6, 2022
Last Updated On: Jun 6, 2022
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), rates of skin cancer are on the rise in the United States. The good news is that having eczema does not necessarily make you more likely to develop skin cancer. However, severe eczema – especially when it’s actively flaring – can sometimes make it harder to recognize the early warning signs of certain types of skin cancer. This means that if you have eczema, getting to know your own skin, doing regular screenings and following up with your dermatologist if you see anything unusual is particularly important.
“Though skin cancer typically looks similar for people with and without eczema,” said Dr. Benjamin Ungar, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, “active eczema may ‘hide’ skin cancers to some extent, obscuring the ability to detect them. This is particularly true for sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck and forearms.”
Susan Tofte, assistant professor of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University, added that skin cancers can sometimes be scaly, tender, ulcerate and bleed, much like severe eczema, so it’s important to relieve eczema-related inflammation as much as possible in order to effectively screen for skin cancer. But everyone, she says, should look for skin cancer regardless of whether they have eczema.
To help yourself screen for any irregularities, examine your skin regularly (monthly, as per the Skin Cancer Foundation) and look for anything that’s different or suspicious. Self exams are the most practical way to find skin cancer early, says the American Academy of Dermatology, when it’s still highly treatable.
The challenge? You might need a couple mirrors and a loved one to help you. And, of course, if you notice anything that’s new or changing, you’ll want to contact your care provider right away.
As a best practice, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you check everywhere for signs of skin cancer: under the hair on your scalp, toenails and fingernails, on both sides of your hands, on the tops and bottoms of your feet, and even around your anus and genitals.
Look for anything out of the ordinary to you, or that’s evolved since your last self-check. If you see something that fits this profile, talk to a knowledgeable healthcare provider as soon as possible.
This is what to watch for:
Although skin cancer can often look similar regardless of skin tone, Dr. Ungar noted that individuals with darker skin are more likely to develop skin cancer on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, as well as under toenails and fingernails, as opposed to on sun-exposed areas where skin cancer tends to appear on lighter skinned people (i.e. on the scalp, ears, face, neck, chest, shoulders, forearms, or lower legs.)
To help prevent skin cancer, Tofte reminds us to use sunscreen or sun protective clothing and hats, saying: “It’s just good practice for preventing damage from the sun which may lead to skin cancer.” If you are at particular risk, such as if there’s a history of skin cancer in your family member or you have naturally pale skin that burns easily (particularly with red hair and blue or green eyes), she recommends a professional skin cancer screening yearly. Want to learn more about what skin cancer can look like? The Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Foundation have useful pictures. But remember, everyone’s skin looks different, if you see something concerning or atypical, even if it doesn’t match skin cancer photos, get it checked by a professional. Finding and treating skin cancer early can save your life.