Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, Melanoma being the deadliest form. We all know to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays and check our skin regularly as a precautionary measure, but do you know everything you should be checking for – and everywhere on your body that could be in danger?
Cancer of the feet is not exceptionally common, but it CAN be deadly. Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley died of melanoma when he was only 36; it first appeared as a dark spot underneath his toenail, which he attributed to a soccer injury and wrongly ignored.
It’s important to pay attention to your feet (even the soles) along with the rest of your body on a regular basis. It’s also important to see a doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Here are the 3 kinds of skin cancer that can originate on your feet and how to detect them:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a non-melanoma skin cancer that usually begins on sun-damaged, inflamed or injured skin. It’s the most common kind of cancer that can develop on the skin of your feet. This kind of skin cancer is usually non-aggressive and will stay on the skin without spreading. However, if left untreated it can become more aggressive in its later stages and spread through the body.
What to look for: This form of cancer appears in the form of a small, firm red bump or a flat patch with a scaly or crusty surface. It most commonly has irregular borders and can sometimes be itchy and/or bleed. It can be mistaken for a wart, eczema or some sort of foot fungus.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a non-melanoma skin cancer. It usually develops on parts of the skin that get sun exposure and is most common in people over the age of 40, but younger folks can still get it. It’s the most common form of cancer in the United States.
What to look for: Look for pearly white bumps or patches that may bleed easily, ooze or crust, much like an open sore. This form of cancer is not as fast moving and aggressive as the others, but can still be deadly if it goes unnoticed. If you see anything questionable you should have it checked out ASAP.
Malignant Melanoma is one of the most deadly skin cancers known. It’s aggressive and can spread through the lymphatic system and blood vessels to other parts of the body quickly. This kind of cancer needs to be detected early for the best chance of survival, and surgical treatment is almost always necessary. Melanomas can appear on the skin of the feet or underneath the toenails.
What to look for: Looking for new spots, and paying attention to existing spots, is the best way to identify malignant melanoma. It usually appears as a small black, brown, pink or red spot – most of the time they resemble a mole, blood blister, wart, bruise or ingrown toenail. Remember – these spots can appear under the nail, looking like a bruise or foreign object, like dirt.
When trying to determine if a lesion is melanoma, vs. a common mole, look for one (or more) of the ABCD symptoms:
- Asymmetrical: These growths are usually uneven shapes – one side does not mirror the other side.
- Border: Most common moles have smooth, distinct edges. Any mark with bumpy, jagged or blurred borders should be looked at by your podiatrist.
- Changes in Color: Any growth that is more than one color, or changes color over a period of time, should be checked out. Colors can include black, brown, tan, pink, red or white.
- Diameter: Any spot that increases in size, is larger than 6 millimeters in diameter or appears suddenly should be checked out.