Get access

Chronic pruritus: a paraneoplastic sign


  • Gil Yosipovitch

    1. Department of Dermatology and Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    Search for more papers by this author

Gil Yosipovitch, MD, Professor, Department of Dermatology, Neurobiology & Anatomy, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, or email:


Chronic itch could be a presenting sign of malignancy. Pruritus of lymphoma is the common prototype of paraneoplastic itch and can precede other clinical signs by weeks and months. Paraneoplastic pruritus has also been associated with solid tumors and is an important clinical symptom in paraneoplastic skin diseases such as erythroderma, Grovers disease, malignant acanthosis nigricans, generalized granuloma annulare, Bazex syndrome, and dermatomyositis. In any case with high index of suspicion a thorough work-up is required. This review highlights the association between itch and malignancy and presents new findings related to pathophysiological mechanisms and the treatment of itch associated with malignancy. Combinative therapies reducing itch sensitization and transmission using selective serotonin and neuroepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, Kappa opioids, and neuroleptics are of prime importance in reducing this bothersome symptom.