May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month! The most serious skin cancer is called melanoma. It is often also called malignant melanoma, because it spreads to other areas of the body as it grows beneath the skin. People of all ages can get melanoma, even while they are young. It can happen anywhere on the body, even on areas that have not been exposed to the sun. However, melanoma in the feet presents unique challenges due to its inconspicuous nature, delayed diagnosis, and potential for serious complications. We want to share the risk factors, signs to watch out for, as well as prevention for melanoma.
Melanoma can be found on any area of the foot or ankle, even under a toenail. Often, it appears as an abnormal mole or small area of pigmented skin. A huge problem with melanoma on the foot or ankle is it is often unnoticed in the early stages when it is more easily treated. Usually when it is finally diagnosed, it is already in the advanced stages which contributes to a higher mortality rate. If you notice any change in an existing mole or pigmented skin, you should make an appointment with your Idaho Foot & Ankle Center Podiatrist as soon as possible.
Too much exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds can cause melanoma. While anyone can get melanoma, there are a few things that put you at higher risk:
- Blonde or red hair, fair skin, or skin that freckles easily
- Frequent sunburns
- Having many moles, especially that appeared at a young age
- A weakened immune system
SIGNS TO WATCH FOR:
- A new pigmented spot, mole, or growth on the foot
- An existing mole or spot that changes in size, shape, color, or texture
- Asymmetry– Half of the spot is different in shape than the other
- Border- The edge of the spot is ragged, notched, or blurred
- Color– The color is a mix of colors rather than one solid color
- Diameter- Moles remain small, melanoma grows. A spot larger than a pencil eraser needs to be examined by your Idaho Foot & Ankle Center Podiatrist.
- Discolored Toenails– Unless the discoloration was caused by a trauma, a discolored toenail needs to be seen by your Podiatrist.
- Itching, bleeding, or ulceration in the affected area
- Swelling, pain, or tenderness that does not resolve
- Cover up your feet with water shoes or shoes and socks when in the sun.
- Inspect all areas of your feet daily including the soles, toenails, and in between toes.
- Use adequate sunscreen on exposed skin including the tops and bottoms of your feet .
- Avoid being in the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m – 4 p.m., especially for kids. The sun is especially damaging to children and teens.
- Wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to limit exposure.
- Seek prompt medical attention if any suspicious symptoms or changes are noticed.
Early detection is vital with malignant melanoma. By incorporating foot care into our overall sun safety practices, we can reduce the risk of foot melanoma and promote early detection, ultimately leading to better outcomes. Remember, every part of our body deserves attention and protection, including our feet! If you notice any of these signs or changes on your feet or ankles, contact Dr. Kylin Kovac or Dr. Jed Erickson at Idaho Foot & Ankle Center for an evaluation. Dr. Kovac and Dr. Erickson are Doctors of Podiatry Medicine as well as a Foot and Ankle Surgeons. They have the education and experience to correctly diagnose foot and ankle problems such as melanoma, and they can find the individualized treatment plan that will be the best for you.
Some content provided by The ACFAS.