The 411: Skin Cancers of the Foot
By now most of us are well educated on the skin cancer risk posed by too much sun exposure, but we often don’t think about what could be going on below our ankles. Our hardworking feet are exposed to hazards and traumas that don’t generally occur to the rest of your body, and unfortunately, some of those can increase the risk of skin cancer in the feet. To make matters more complicated, because many of us are used to occasional blisters and cracking on our feet we might miss the early warning signs of something serious. Make sure your dermatologist includes your feet in the examination the next time you go in for a skin check and ask your podiatrist to do a cancer check next time you make a visit to your foot doctor.
Of course, the skin on your feet is just as susceptible to sun exposure as the rest of your body, so for starters always include your feet when you are lathering up with sunscreen. Beyond that, there are some other risk factors you can control, particularly exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, and chronic inflammation and irritation. Other risk factors are largely out of your hands: chiefly your genetic makeup and viral infections.
Most skin cancers of the foot are relatively easy to treat if they are caught early. Follow the ABCDs of skin cancer when you are concerned about a spot on your foot: Is it Asymmetrical? Are the Borders uneven? Is there more than one Color and are the tones randomly distributed? Is the Diameter wider than a pencil eraser? If you answer yes to any of those questions play it safe and have your foot checked out by a podiatrist who has been trained to spot potential trouble with your feet.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: You may already be looking for the telltale signs of basal cell carcinoma on other parts of your body—it is one of the common cancers on sun-damaged skin and fortunately one of the least aggressive. Look for glossy white bumps that sometimes morph into open sores that ooze or crust over.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Unlike basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer of the feet, can eventually spread to other parts of the body. Look for small hard bumps that may appear inflamed, and may be accompanied by cracking and bleeding that doesn’t heal on its own. It’s easy to mistake a squamous cell carcinoma for a fungal infection or plantar wart, so make sure your doctor considers all the possibilities.
Malignant Melanoma: If you see an unexplained irregular-shaped bump or dark spot anywhere on your foot get it checked out immediately. There are a lot of benign things it could be—a mole, a bruise, a blood blister, embedded dirt—but the possibility that it could be a malignant melanoma is worth taking seriously. A potentially deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma can grow quickly and can spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant tumors can appear on the tops or bottoms of the feet and even under toenails, where they show up as dark spots or subungual melanoma under the nail (if you normally wear nail polish make time to check the appearance of your nails between applications).
For more information about skin cancers of the foot or to make an appointment with one of Triad Foot & Ankle Center’s highly skilled podiatrists, please call 336.375.6990 or click here to request an appointment at one of our four office locations.
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