Keep Your Feet On The Right Track - Melanoma Free!

Melanoma Awareness Month (May!) is a great annual reminder to have your skin checked for any suspicious activity.  A lot of people know a few basics for looking for melanoma but I want to take the time to further educate and encourage thorough skin checks so if you see something odd, you know, and you schedule an appointment with your dermatologist quickly.  Because as I mentioned in my previous post, The Health Risks of a Golden Tan, when skin cancer is caught in its early stages, it is highly treatable. 

People often think of the obvious places to check for melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer, such as your scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, and legs.  But we often forget about our feet - in more ways than one...  Our feet usually get a fair amount of exposure to the sun during the warmer months (not that skin has to have direct sun exposure to develop melanoma) and we often forget to spread our sunscreen past our ankles.  Then, we follow up this unconscious behavior with forgetting to pay close attention to our feet or check for unusual skin changes, until symptoms are screaming at us to take action.  Because people hardly ever check their feet for for signs of melanoma, the cancer often spreads before it is detected. 

Everyone Needs To Check Their Feet!

Did you know that about the same number of African Americans and Caucasians develop melanoma on their feet?  Additionally, for people of African and Asian heritage, the feet are the most common area for melanoma to appear. 

Where Should You Check For Melanoma On Your Feet?

You want to check your whole foot, the top, bottom, sides, toes, in-between your toes, and even observe your toe nails to detect any discoloration.  It is also important to note that melanoma often shows up in previous injury sites.  If you ever injured your foot in sport, dance, or even in a regrettable pair of high heels form fifteen years ago, keep a close watch on these predisposed areas. 

What To Look For, the ABCDE's Of Melanoma!

Asymmetry: A mole that is not circular or oval in shape, with differing colors that are not evenly distributed.

Border: Irregular, jagged borders on a mole.

Color: A mole that has several different colors within it, such as brown, black, red, and white. 

Diameter: A mole that is 6mm in size or larger, the diameter of a standard pencil eraser.

Evolution: A mole that changes in size, shape, color, or thickness in a short period of time.

The ABCDE's of melanoma are a good starting point for assessing questionable areas.  But the feet do add additional complications to identifying melanoma, so also be on the lookout for:

- A non-healing sore on your foot (or one that reoccurs often)

- A sore that looks like a diabetic ulcer

- A new spot or growth on previous injury site

- Pink/Red spot growth

- Black or brown vertical lines underneath your toenail

Additionally, sometimes melanoma on the feet can be painful, itch, and bleed, but that is not always the case.  If bleeding does occur it often starts and stops irregularly. 

Weather you have a history of excessive sun exposure or not - I strongly urge you to be proactive and have your skin spot checked at least once a year.  Make sure you are seeing a medical provider that specializes in skin health when you do.   It is a simple safeguard, that is well worth your time and effort, to ensure that if skin cancer ever develops you catch it early.  If you are in the greater Nashville area you can schedule an appointment in any of our eight Skin Solutions Dermatology locations: Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Columbia, Smyrna, Hendersonville, Mt. Juliet, and Pulaski

Source: American Academy of Dermatology

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Dr Pena

About The Author

Dr. Pena is a Board-Certified Medical Dermatologist, Mohs skin cancer surgeon, and cosmetic dermatologist. Her mission is to educate the diverse patient populations she serves, and their communities, on the importance of skin care in decreasing the risk of skin cancer and minimizing the early signs of aging. She founded Skin Solutions Dermatology with numerous clinics in Nashville, Tennessee and surrounding Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Julia Pena, MD

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