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Similarities, Differences, and the Link Between Eczema and Lymphoma

Both eczema and lymphoma can cause changes in your skin. Consulting a doctor for a diagnosis is the best way to learn the difference.

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in children and adults, affecting roughly 31.6 million people in the United States alone. This condition is so common that 10% of people will develop eczema in their lifetime, according to the National Eczema Association.

Although eczema is one of the most common causes of itchy, irritated skin, there are other conditions that can cause an eczema-like rash, including lymphoma. Some research even suggests that people with eczema have a higher risk of developing certain types of lymphoma.

Below, we’ll discuss whether eczema can be a symptom of lymphoma and explore the possible relationship between eczema and lymphoma risk.

Is eczema a symptom of lymphoma?

When we talk about eczema, most people think of dry, itchy skin, the best-known symptom of the condition. But eczema is more than just irritated and inflamed skin ― it’s actually a handful of skin conditions with different symptoms and different triggers.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in your lymphatic system, a system that plays an important role in keeping your body healthy. Early symptoms of lymphoma can include:

Just as eczema can cause your skin to become discolored, itchy, and inflamed, some types of lymphoma can cause these symptoms. But not all rashes are eczema — and in this case, the rash is a symptom of lymphoma, not eczema.

Can lymphoma be misdiagnosed as eczema?

Because one of the possible symptoms of lymphoma is a dry, itchy rash, it’s possible for a lymphoma rash to be mistakenTrusted Source for a skin condition such as eczema.

One specific type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma causes a rash that looks almost exactly like eczema. The skin symptoms of this type of lymphoma include:

  • a rash that looks like sunburn
  • scaly or light patches on your skin
  • itchy, raised plaques on your skin
  • darkening or lightening of skin in the affected area
  • thickening of the skin on your soles and palms
  • painful, burning, or infected skin
  • changes in your nails or eyelids

While some of these symptoms are similar to those of eczema, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma also causes other symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, hair loss, and even skin tumors in its advanced stages.

In some cases, Hodgkin’s lymphoma can also cause itchy skin and an eczema-like rash. According to researchersTrusted Source, there have been some cases in which eczema that didn’t respond to treatment was found to be a symptom of Hodgkin’s disease.

Does having eczema raise your risk of lymphoma?

While having eczema doesn’t increase your risk of most cancers, some research suggests that eczema might increase the risk of developing lymphoma.

In one large study from 2020Trusted Source, researchers explored the relationship between eczema and cancer risk in more than 516,000 people living in England and Denmark.

Results of the study showed that atopic dermatitis (eczema) was associated with an increased risk of lymphoma ― especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In addition, people with more severe eczema had a greater risk of developing lymphoma.

In a large research reviewTrusted Source from 2022, the authors examined 29 studies and found that eczema was associated with an increased risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, they found no significant association between eczema and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Additionally, a 2023 studyTrusted Source explored the risk of cancer in adults and children living with atopic dermatitis.

According to the results, children with severe atopic dermatitis had an increased risk of developing lymphoma but not cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Severe eczema in adults was also associated with twice the risk of developing non-cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Some researchTrusted Source also suggests that certain medications used to treat eczema ― specifically, topical calcineurin inhibitors ― can increase lymphoma risk. But it’s possible that this increased risk may actually be due to the misdiagnosis of lymphoma rather than the medications.

Treating eczema and lymphoma together

Some of the symptoms of eczema and lymphoma are similar, but doctors treat these two conditions very differently.

Eczema treatment

Eczema treatment involves a combination of medications and therapies to reduce symptoms and inflammation.

Medications for eczema, such as antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics, can reduce symptoms and limit flare-ups. Doctors may also use these medications to treat skin rashes and infections in people with lymphoma.

Phototherapy, or light therapy, involves using ultraviolet light on your skin to reduce inflammation and promote healing. It’s an effective treatment option for both eczema and cutaneous lymphomaTrusted Source.

Lifestyle strategies can help regulate eczema symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Some recommended changes include learning and avoiding your triggers, moisturizing your skin frequently, and taking advantage of at-home treatments.

Lymphoma treatment

As with other types of cancer, treatment for lymphoma typically includes therapies and medications that shrink or kill cancer cells. Because lymphoma affects your lymphatic system, surgery isn’t usually a common treatment for this cancer.

Aside from radiation therapy and chemotherapy medications, other treatment options can help reduce lymphoma symptoms. For example, topical medications and phototherapy can help treat skin symptoms that develop because of lymphoma.

But ultimately, eczema and lymphoma are different health conditions that require different treatment approaches ― even in people who have both conditions. Your healthcare team will be able to advise on the best treatment regimen for you.


Eczema causes itchy, irritated, discolored skin, and certain types of lymphoma can also cause a rash that’s easily mistaken for eczema. However, the rash from lymphoma is not the same as eczema, as these are two separate conditions with different diagnostic criteria and treatments.

If you’ve recently noticed any changes in your skin, such as itchiness or a rash, reach out to a healthcare professional with your concerns. While it may not be anything serious, a proper diagnosis is the first step in getting the treatment you might need.

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