May brings heat, sunshine, and most importantly, skin cancer awareness month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with over 5 million new diagnoses every year. It’s a common belief that excessive sun exposure is the sole cause of skin cancer, however, skin cancer can also develop due to a variety of factors such as viruses, chemical exposure, chronic inflammation, and inheritable traits. Skin cancer of the foot is caused by any number of these factors as well as unprotected, prolonged UV exposure. Skin cancer of the feet is a dangerous reality because feet are often overlooked during regular medical examinations. In order to best protect yourself and your skin, you should regularly and thoroughly check your feet for possible signs of abnormalities.
Possible abnormalities may include:
- Brown/black vertical line under the toenail
- Pink or red spot/growth
- New spot/growth where a foot injury occurred
- Rapid growing mass on foot (particularly at a site of the previous injury)
- Sores that do not heal or sores that heal and return
- Sores that appear like diabetic ulcers
Types of Foot Skin Cancer:
Basal Skin Carcinoma: This type of cancer typically results from excessive UV exposure. As it does not usually spread beyond the skin it is categorized as a minimally aggressive cancer. This cancer often appears as white bumps/patches that may seep or crust over as an open sore would.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer of the foot and typically remains localized as a less aggressive form. If left untreated, it has the possibility to become more aggressive and spread to other parts of the body. This form often begins as a small, scale-like bump that may crack or bleed. This form can also appear as many common foot issues such as an ulcer, plantar wart, or fungal infection.
Malignant Melanoma: This form is the deadliest form of foot skin cancer and the key to the survival of this form is early detection. This form can develop in all possible areas of the foot and can commonly appear under toenails. Color appearance can vary from black to brown as well as pink to red.
When to Visit Indy Podiatry:
If you believe you have melanoma, you can use the ABCDs of melanoma to assess yourself. If you meet any of the following criteria, you should contact Indy Podiatry immediately.
Asymmetry: the mole, bump, or patch appears to have two different sides
Borders: border is irregular, undefined, ragged, or scalloped
Color: colors vary in different areas, there are many colors that are unevenly distributed
Diameter: greater than 6mm or the size of a pencil eraser
Diagnosis, Treatment, & Prevention:
One of our doctors will assess your possibility of skin cancer through examination and possible biopsy. To perform a biopsy, one of our doctors will obtain a small sample of your lesion and send it to a laboratory for further examination and testing. If your results come back positive for cancer, they will recommend a course of treatment that they deem appropriate. To prevent skin cancer from developing, make sure to limit your sun exposure and apply sunscreen whenever you are outdoors. Good prevention methods also include frequent self-examinations to spot any abnormalities that may arise.