The Differences Between Eczema and Skin Cancer

Depending on your symptoms, you can easily confuse skin cancer for eczema or vice versa. Speaking with your doctor is the best way to find out.

Tens of millions of Americans experience the symptoms of a skin ailment each year. 84.5 million Americans suffered from skin disorders in 2016 alone, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).

Skin patches that are red, scaly, or itchy are signs of a few skin disorders, such as eczema and skin cancer. Even though these two disorders can initially seem identical, there are some distinctions in their indications and symptoms.

Can eczema be confused with skin cancer?

Patches of skin that are dry, itchy, red, and irritated are symptoms of the chronic skin disorder eczema. Although atopic dermatitis and "eczema" are sometimes used synonymously, the phrase refers to about eight distinct kinds of related skin disorders.

Although there are various forms of skin cancer, each with its own set of symptoms, many people mistakenly believe that a skin cancerous mole is the cause of their condition. Certain signs of skin cancer may resemble eczema, depending on the type of malignancy.

Skin lesions that are malignant or precancerous can all manifest differently, including by itching the affected area. The following are a few skin cancer symptoms that can mimic those of eczema:

  • crusty or scaly skin lesions, which could be an actinic keratosis sign
  • Uncomfortable patches, itching, or bleeding may indicate basal cell cancer.
  • dark red or scaly spots, which could be signs of squamous cell carcinoma

However, there are some distinctions as well as similarities between the symptoms of eczema and skin cancer:

  • Eczema lesions typically appear on multiple areas of the body at once, and these patches can be larger. Additionally, eczema lesions can develop in parts of the body that receive minimal sun exposure, such as the groyne and armpits.
  • Skin cancer often only affects one area of the skin at a time and does not spread to other areas. Additionally, skin in parts of the body exposed to sunlight regularly is more susceptible to developing skin cancer.

One major distinction between the two ailments to take into account is that eczema typically appears before the age of six years old. On the other hand, people are more likely to get skin cancer, and the risk rises with age.

What skin cancers can look like eczema?

Skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and actinic keratosis (also known as precancer) can present with symptoms similar to eczema.

Actinic keratosis

Rough, scaly, or crusty skin lesions are the hallmark of actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, which develops after years of sun exposure.

Actinic keratoses typically develop on sun-exposed areas such as the scalp, face, shoulders, and neck. These lesions can occasionally resemble the signs of nummular eczema due to their tendency to be smaller in size.

Basal cell carcinoma

One kind of skin cancer that affects the basal cells in your skin's outer layer is called basal cell carcinoma.

Similar to eczema, the affected skin with this type of skin cancer may be itchy or painful and seem red, discoloured, brown, blue, black, crusty, or bloody. It can also occasionally manifest as a raised growth, a glossy pimple on the skin, or a sore that refuses to heal.

Squamous cell carcinoma

One kind of skin cancer that affects the squamous cells in the skin's outermost layer is called squamous cell carcinoma.

This kind of skin cancer resembles eczema the most since it frequently manifests as scaly, red, discoloured, crusty lesions and lumps on the skin. Additionally, it may result in excruciating skin itching, which may exacerbate the skin's redness and inflammation.

How do you rule out skin cancer?

A skin biopsy is a test that is one of the only techniques to rule out skin cancer. Your doctor will take a sample of tissue during a skin biopsy and send it to a lab to determine whether cancer cells are present or not.

When detected early, both squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are very curable. So, it's critical to make an appointment with your doctor right away if you exhibit any of the warning indicators of skin cancer.


One of the most prevalent skin disorders in both adults and children, eczema is characterised by dry, irritated, itchy skin areas. Scleroderma shares several symptoms with some forms of skin cancer, particularly squamous and basal cell carcinomas.

Consider talking to your doctor about any new, questionable lumps, bumps, or patches you've observed on your skin. Proactive care allows you to rule out any significant diseases or, if needed, receive treatment for them immediately.


Can cancer look like eczema?

Initially, a rash caused by basal cell carcinoma may resemble dermatitis, psoriasis or eczema.

Can skin cancer be misdiagnosed as eczema?

In many cases, skin cancer is incorrectly diagnosed as eczema

Is eczema very serious?

For adults who continue to suffer, it is a serious condition

Is skin cancer raised or flat?

Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar.

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