At a glance: Psoriasis vs superficial basal cell carcinoma


Clinical features

  • Single or often multiple plaques.
  • A red surface with a thick scale is typical.
  • Predilection for extensor surfaces.
  • Lesions are often symmetrical.
  • Involvement of the face is rare but the nails can be affected.


  • Topical emollients, tar, salicylic acid, topical steroids, dithranol, calcipotriol or UV light.
  • Systemic PUVA, retinoids, cytotoxics, systemic steroids, ciclosporin if severe.

Superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Clinical features

  • Most commonly arise on the trunk.
  • Usually present as a single lesion.
  • Slow-growing pink or brown scaly plaque with a fine whipcord edge.
  • Can grow to greater than 10cm in diameter.
  • Usually mistakenly diagnosed as psoriasis or eczema but fail to respond to conventional therapy.
  • Thought to be associated with prolonged sun exposure.
  • Also occur in scars caused by X-rays, vaccination or trauma.


  • Treatment is ideally by excision, curettage and cautery or cryotherapy, or radiotherapy where appropriate.
  • In general the cure rate is >95 per cent.
  • Regular follow up is important to detect recurrence and new lesions.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in