Psoriasis and Cancer Risk

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
concerned male patient in dressing gown waiting for doctor

Previous research seems to indicate that several medical conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mood disorders like anxiety and depression are linked to psoriasis. Recently, a study found possible evidence linking psoriasis to cancer.

While the study did find a relationship between the two conditions, it did not prove that, if you have psoriasis, you will develop cancer. But it’s still important to be mindful of your cancer risk factors and take steps to manage them. If you’re concerned about having psoriasis and developing cancer, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about how you can stay as healthy as possible. 

Does psoriasis put you at risk for cancer?

The relationship between psoriasis and cancer isn’t fully understood. The new study built off previous work that found a link between the two conditions–but this time, researchers used data from 58 separate studies to determine whether cancer risk increased.

The researchers determined that just having psoriasis, regardless of severity, represented a 1.18-fold increase in cancer risk compared to people who don’t have psoriasis. People living with severe psoriasis were shown to be at higher risk for several cancers, such as:

  • esophageal
  • liver
  • lymphoma
  • pancreatic
  • some types of skin cancers

It was also shown that people with severe psoriasis may be more likely to have extremely poor outcomes, including death, from cancer when compared to those without psoriasis.

Why might people with psoriasis be more prone to cancer?

It isn’t known exactly why psoriasis might increase cancer risk. But researchers do have some possible explanations. First, psoriasis promotes chronic, or long-term, inflammation throughout the body. Many other studies have already linked chronic inflammation to the development of cancer.

Second, many psoriasis treatments affect the body’s immune system. In many cases, this means the immune system doesn’t work as well as it should. If this occurs, the body is less likely to identify and kill cancer cells before they can grow out of control. Also, some psoriasis treatments, such as phototherapy, may actually increase the risk of certain types of cancers if used long-term.

Finally, many people with psoriasis also have known cancer risk factors. Other data shows that people with psoriasis are more likely to use tobacco and consume alcohol excessively, both of which are known to increase cancer risk. People with psoriasis are also more likely to have other medical conditions, such as obesity or metabolic syndrome, which are linked to cancer.

How can you lower your cancer risk?

Taking steps to lower your cancer risk is one of the best strategies to avoid future problems, especially if you have psoriasis. You can help lower your cancer risk by:

  • Avoiding risky behaviors. Practicing safe sex and avoiding sharing needles for intravenous (IV) drug use can help lower cancer risk, as well as your risk factors for other diseases like hepatitis B.
  • Avoiding tobacco. Any type of tobacco product, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco, increases your cancer risk. Exposure to secondhand smoke does too. If you need help quitting, talk with your doctor.
  • Eating a healthy diet. A diet rich in nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help lower your cancer risk. If you drink alcohol, try to limit your consumption.
  • Getting vaccinated. Vaccinations against certain diseases can dramatically lower your risk for specific types of cancer.
  • Protecting yourself from the sun. If you have psoriasis, you could be at higher risk for skin cancer. Protect yourself by staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen, and avoiding sunlamps and tanning beds.
  • Regularly seeing your doctor. Checking in with your doctor is a great way to screen for various types of cancer. Also, sticking to a regular appointment schedule increases your likelihood of catching problems early.
  • Working to maintain a healthy weight. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are both important for losing weight and maintaining your weight loss.

If you have psoriasis, your risk of cancer is somewhat elevated compared to people who do not have psoriasis. If you’re concerned, talk with your doctor about the best ways for you to lower your cancer risk.

Was this helpful?
  1. Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk. Mayo Clinic.
  2. What is Psoriasis? American Academy of Dermatology.
  3. Psoriasis and cancer: What’s the link? Harvard Medical School.
  4. Association of Psoriasis With the Risk of Developing or Dying of Cancer. JAMA Dermatology.
  5. Related Conditions of Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 29
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.