What could cause discoloration of skin?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have begun to have discoloration of skin show up underneath my breasts in the last few months. They look like sunspots or random red "blotches". My health has actually been pretty good the past couple of months, even my allergies. Because my family has a history with cancer, including breast cancer, I try to always be aware of any changes. Is this something I should be worried about? Should I have it checked out? What could be the possible causes of skin discoloration?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

This is actually a common problem, and one that is easy to treat.  This condition is called intertrigo, a skin infection from yeast.  It occurs under the breasts (and other skin folds), since yeast love to live where it is moist and warm. 

To help the problem, you should make sure that you cleanse the area daily and dry the skin thoroughly before putting on your bra or other clothes.   You can use an over the counter anti-fungal cream (like clotrimazole) for a week or two to help get rid of the rash.  Once the rash is gone, continue to keep the area clean and dry, as the rash can easily return.  You can apply cornstarch powder under the breasts, which can help absorb excess moisture to help keep the rash away. 

Regarding your comments about breast cancer, the first symptom is usually a firm lump that you would feel in the breast tissue.  Therefore, you should check yourself monthly with a breast self exam and get mammograms yearly to reduce your risk.