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July 1965

Pruritus, an Uncommon but Important Symptom of Systemic Carcinoma

Author Affiliations


From the Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical College, New York.

Arch Dermatol. 1965;92(1):36-39. doi:10.1001/archderm.1965.01600130042004

A distinctive pruritic syndrome associated with systemic cancer is described. Prolonged, variably severe pruritus with a tendency to localization on the legs, upper trunk, and extensor surfaces of the upper extremities is the presenting symptom. Patients with unexplained persistent itching as herein described should be investigated for a hidden malignancy. The persistence or recurrence of itching, months or even years after apparent cure of a systemic carcinoma, suggests that destruction or removal of the primary tumor was incomplete, or that metastasis has supervened. A small carcinomatous focus may exist for many months and at times for years before cinical recognition is possible with diagnostic methods currently available.

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