May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is often called malignant melanoma because it can spread to other areas of the body as it grows beneath the skin. This dangerous cancer can affect people of all ages and appear anywhere on the body, even in areas that have not been exposed to the sun. Melanoma on the feet presents unique challenges due to its inconspicuous nature, delayed diagnosis, and potential for serious complications. Let’s discuss the risk factors, warning signs, and prevention tips to protect your feet from melanoma.

Melanoma on the Feet: What to Watch For

Melanoma can develop on any part of the foot or ankle, including under toenails. Often, it appears as an abnormal mole or a small area of pigmented skin. One of the biggest issues with foot melanoma is that it often goes unnoticed in the early stages when treatment is more effective. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually in the advanced stages, contributing to a higher mortality rate. If you notice any changes in an existing mole or pigmented area, schedule an appointment with your Idaho Foot & Ankle Center Podiatrist immediately.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

While anyone can develop melanoma, certain factors increase your risk. Excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, fair skin (including blonde or red hair, and skin that freckles easily), a history of frequent sunburns, having many moles (especially those that appeared at a young age), and a weakened immune system can all contribute to a higher risk of melanoma.

Signs to Watch For

Be vigilant and watch for the following signs of melanoma on your feet:

  • New Pigmented Spot or Mole: Any new growth on the foot.
  • Changes in Existing Moles: Look for changes in size, shape, color, or texture.
  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or spot is different from the other.
  • Irregular Borders: The edges of the spot are ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • Varied Colors: The spot contains multiple colors rather than a single hue.
  • Size: A spot larger than a pencil eraser should be examined.
  • Discolored Toenails: Any unexplained discoloration should be checked.
  • Symptoms: Itching, bleeding, or ulceration in the affected area, as well as swelling, pain, or tenderness that doesn’t resolve.

Prevention Tips

Taking proactive steps can help prevent melanoma on your feet. Cover up by wearing water shoes or shoes and socks when in the sun. Perform daily inspections by checking all areas of your feet, including the soles, toenails, and between the toes. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, including the tops and bottoms of your feet. Avoid peak sun hours by staying out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., especially for children and teens. Use protective gear such as sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to limit sun exposure.

Early detection is crucial for treating malignant melanoma effectively. By including foot care in your sun safety routine, you can reduce the risk of foot melanoma and promote early detection. Every part of your body, including your feet, deserves attention and protection.

If you notice any suspicious signs or changes on your feet or ankles, contact Dr. Kylin Kovac or Dr. Jed Erickson at Idaho Foot & Ankle Center for an evaluation. As Doctors of Podiatry Medicine and Foot and Ankle Surgeons, they have the expertise to diagnose and treat foot and ankle problems. They can develop a personalized treatment plan that’s best for you. Stay vigilant, protect your skin, and keep your feet safe this summer!

Some content provided by The ACFAS.