By Gary M. White, MD

Leukemia cutis

Classically, leukemic involvement of the skin has been separated into leukemia cutis (invasion of the skin by malignant leukemic cells) and leukemids (skin changes associated with leukemia but without the presence of leukemia cells in the skin). Very rarely, leukemic vasculitis may occur in which malignant cells invade blood vessels causing damage.


Leukemia cutis may appear as macules, papules, nodules, ulcerative lesions, ecchymoses, and tumors. Red, pink, or plum-colored are possible colors. This may represent the first manifestation of leukemia in a previously healthy patient, acute transformation in a patient with myelodysplastic syndrome, or another manifestation of leukemia in a patient already known to have that disease. Epstein-Barr virus may be associated.

Leukemids may take the form of generalized itching, exfoliative erythroderma, pyoderma gangrenosum, hemorrhagic lesions, erythema multiforme, erythema nodosum, urticaria, panniculitis, hyperpigmentation, and morbilliform eruptions.

Leukemic vasculitis may present as tender purpuric papules and plaques, and lesions with hemorrhagic cursing and necrosis [JAMA Derm 2016;152;571].

The bullous subtype of LC is rare and clinically mimics bug bites.

Additional Pictures

Leukemia cutis caused by acute myelogenous leukemia.
Leukemia cutis Leukemia cutis

Courtesy Micheal O. Murphy, MD

Leukemia cutis


Zosteriform B-Cell Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Infiltration. A 77-year-old woman, known to have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, developed multiple red, erythematous, pruritic papules in a zosteriform distribution on her trunk over a 4-week duration. Dermatology Online Journal 17(9)

Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2010;76:710-2

Aleukemic Leukemia Cutis. Acta Dermato-Venereologica 2011;91;203

Unilateral Purpura from B-Cell Leukemia. JAAD Case Reports March 2015 Volume 1, Issue 2, Pages 49–50


Homepage | FAQs | Contact Dr. White

It is not the intention of RegionalDerm.com to provide specific medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. RegionalDerm.com only intends to provide users with information regarding various medical conditions for educational purposes and will not provide specific medical advice. Information on RegionalDerm.com is not intended as a substitute for seeking medical treatment and you should always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for diagnosis and for answers to your individual questions. Information contained on RegionalDerm.com should never cause you to disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment. If you live in the United States and believe you are having a medical emergency call 911 immediately.