Chronic pruritus: a paraneoplastic sign

Dermatol Ther. 2010 Nov-Dec;23(6):590-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2010.01366.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / drug therapy
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / etiology*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Pruritus / drug therapy
  • Pruritus / epidemiology
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Pruritus / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipruritics