Skin Cancer and Feet

It’s summer time, which means it’s time to throw on your bathing suit, grab a pool float and soak in the sun!  But wait, what are you forgetting?  Your sunscreen!  Whether you’re looking for a ‘sun kissed glow’ or a ‘dark bronze Jersey Shore tan’ protecting yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays is important.  The risk of developing melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer, more than doubles if you have had five or more sunburns in your life! 

1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common cancer diagnosis in the United States.  Ultraviolet radiation is a human carcinogen, meaning it has the proven ability to cause cancer. 

Skin cancer most often develops on the areas of our body that receive the most sun exposure.  It can affect any area of the body, including your feet!  It is estimated that around 30% of primary melanomas arise on the lower extremity.  Since our feet are typically protected by shoes, the skin on the feet is unfortunately often overlooked when it comes to skin cancer. 

The most common type of skin cancer found on the feet is Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  Frequent symptoms include cracking, bleeding or ulceration.  The lesion itself is often painless, although it may itch.  It is critical to diagnose this early in the disease process in order to prevent spreading to other areas of the body (metastasis). 

Malignant melanoma, a much more serious form of skin cancer, can also be found on the skin of the feet and underneath the nails.  Malignant melanoma only accounts for 2% of skin cancer cases, but is much more aggressive and has an increased likelihood for metastasis.  It often presents as a black/brown pigmented spot and requires immediate medical attention. 

Did you know?  Bob Marley died in 1981 at age 36 from malignant melanoma underneath his toenail.  

It was overlooked as a bruise caused by playing soccer. 

Although individuals with darker skin are affected less often by malignant melanoma, they should be exceedingly dedicated when it comes to examining their skin for malignancies.  Malignant melanomas are typically caught much later in these individuals, which can significantly worsen their prognosis. 

If you have what you believe is a suspicious spot/bump/plaque on your skin, evaluate it using the ABCDs of melanoma:

                A = Asymmetry– if the lesion is divided in half are the two sides uneven?

                B = Borders– do the borders appear irregular?

                C = Color– is there more than one color?

                D = Diameter– is the lesion bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser (6 mm)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions consider making an appointment to see Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona immediately.  The earlier skin cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.  You can prevent sun-induced skin cancer by applying sun screen and limiting sun exposure.  It is also important to examine the skin on the soles of the feet and underneath the nails regularly to check for any changes or irregularities.  Remember, practice safe sun!  

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