(HealthDay News) — The presence and intensity of pain and itch may be indicators of skin cancer, according to a study published online July 23 in JAMA Dermatology.

Gil Yosipovitch, MD, from the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the correlation between pain and itch and histologic features of skin cancers in a prospective study. Participants included 268 patients, with 339 histopathologically confirmed cutaneous neoplasms, including basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas.

The researchers found that the prevalence of itch was 36.9% and the prevalence of pain was 28.2% across all skin cancers, but these symptoms were mainly absent in melanomas. Significant correlations were seen for pain intensity with degree of inflammation (mild or none vs. moderate or marked; P<0.001); presence of neutrophils in inflammatory infiltrate (mainly mononuclear vs. mixed or neutrophilic; P=0.003); presence of eosinophils (present vs. absent; P=0.007); ulceration (present vs. absent; P=0.003); perineural invasion (present vs. absent; P< 0.001); invasion depth (P=0.001); and largest diameter length of skin lesion (P<0.003). There were significant correlations for itch intensity with degree of inflammation (mild or none vs. moderate or marked; P=0.001) and eosinophil presence (present vs. absent; P=0.02).

“This study also reports that a simple bedside assessment for the presence and intensity of pain or itch is an easily implementable tool for physicians evaluating suspicious skin lesions,” the authors write.

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