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Understanding the Difference between Psoriasis and Skin Cancer

In the realm of skin conditions, psoriasis and skin cancer are both prevalent concerns that affect a significant portion of the population. While they may share some superficial similarities, such as changes in the skin’s appearance, it’s crucial to understand that they are fundamentally different diseases with their unique causes, symptoms, and treatments. Distinguishing between psoriasis and skin cancer is essential for effective management and treatment.


What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. This rapid turnover leads to cells building up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming scales and red patches that can be itchy and sometimes painful. Psoriasis is known for its waxing and waning episodes, with factors such as stress, infections, and changes in climate often triggering flare-ups.

Types and Symptoms of Psoriasis

There are several types of psoriasis, including: Plaque Psoriasis: The most common form, characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. Guttate Psoriasis: Shows up as small, dot-like lesions, often starting in childhood or young adulthood. Inverse Psoriasis: Found in the body's skin folds, such as under the arms or around the genitals and buttocks, appearing as red, shiny, and smooth lesions.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer, on the other hand, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

Types and Symptoms of Skin Cancer

The most common types of skin cancer include:

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): Often appears as a slightly transparent bump on the sun-exposed skin, though it can take other forms as well. BCC seldom spreads beyond the original tumor site.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): Generally, appears as a firm, red nodule, or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. SCC is more likely than BCC to spread and cause damage.

Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, can develop in an existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color. This type of cancer can also appear as a dark spot or lesion that grows or changes over time.

Key Differences between Psoriasis and Skin Cancer

Cause and Development

Psoriasis is primarily an autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells, leading to the overproduction of skin cells. Skin Cancer is mainly caused by DNA damage to skin cells, often due to exposure to UV radiation, leading to uncontrolled cell growth.


Psoriasis lesions are usually red patches covered with thick, silvery scales. The skin around the patches may be dry and cracked. Skin Cancer lesions vary depending on the type but may include new growths or sores that don’t heal, asymmetrical moles, or changes in existing moles.


Psoriasis treatments aim to reduce inflammation and clear the skin. Treatments can include topical ointments, light therapy, and systemic medications. Skin Cancer treatment depends on the cancer's type, size, location, and depth, as well as the patient's health and preferences. Options may include surgical removal, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Risk Factors

Psoriasis risk factors include family history, viral and bacterial infections, stress, and obesity. Skin Cancer risk factors are predominantly related to UV exposure, whether from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds, as well as family history and having a fair complexion.


While both psoriasis and skin cancer affect the skin, they are distinct in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Recognizing the differences between these two conditions is key to seeking appropriate care and management. For comprehensive skin cancer treatment in India, American Oncology Institute is recognized as the top multi-disciplinary oncology hospital known for its expertise and advanced care.