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What To Know When You Have Psoriasis & Are Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

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If you have psoriasis and have recently been diagnosed with skin cancer, you may have some questions about whether or not the psoriasis treatments increased your risk of skin cancer and how to move forward with treatments for both conditions.

Two Common Psoriasis Treatments You May Be Concerned About 

There are several types of psoriasis treatment available. Most psoriasis patients run the gamut of treatments until they find something that works for them. Of primary concern regarding skin cancer risks are phototherapy treatments and coal tar ointments. Fortunately, studies have been conducted on both of these popular psoriasis treatments. Here's what you need to know.


It's been well-documented that sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer. All through your life you've heard how important it is to apply sunscreen to reduce your risks of developing skin cancer. But the same sunlight helps relieve psoriasis sufferers.The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight causes an increase in melanin production in the skin, which is what causes the skin to tan or darken.

When this occurs, it causes the skin cell turnover in the skin to slow down, including in skin affected by psoriasis which typically turns over in just a few days. In normal healthy skin this turnover takes about a month. Fortunately, research shows that, in psoriatic patients treated with UVB light phototherapy, the overall risk of cancer was not any higher than in the non-psoriatic population

Coal Tar Ointments

Coal tar is a byproduct that is produced when coal is burned to produce energy. Coal tar has been used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis for over 150 years. It works by slowing down the production of skin cells by breaking down a protein in the skin called keratin. Coal tar also relieves psoriatic itch, which feels like a combination of burning and biting.  

However, many people are concerned about the carcinogenic properties of coal tar, given that it is a well-known hazard to those who are exposed to the substance in certain occupations, such as coal miners and asphalt pavers. Fortunately, when coal tar treatments are used for psoriasis, the risk of skin cancer is not appreciably higher than the non-psoriatic population.

With your additional diagnosis of skin cancer, consult with your dermatologist regarding the continuation of your psoriasis treatments while you undergo skin cancer treatment.

Skin Cancer Treatments to Avoid When You Have Psoriasis

It is important to get the right treatment for your skin cancer while still continuing the psoriasis treatments. However, it is important to understand that some skin cancer treatments may exacerbate psoriasis.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy uses drugs that are made from cultured living cells to kill cancer cells. It is also used to treat severe psoriasis. However, this type of treatment increases the risk of infection, including in your psoriasis patches. If you and your medical team choose biological therapy, be sure to keep your psoriasis lesions clean to reduce the risk of infection.

Topical Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Topical creams are applied to skin cancer that is limited to the top layer of the skin. These creams may contain substances that can cause irritation in skin inflamed and broken with psoriasis. Therefore, you will want to be careful to avoid contact. One way to do this is to apply the cream while wearing rubber gloves. That way, you can effectively keep your hands and fingertips clean and reduce the risk of getting the cream onto psoriatic skin.

Make absolutely sure your oncologist knows that you have psoriasis before he or she develops a plan to attack your skin cancer.