Living in the sunshine state, we get to enjoy an infinite number of sunny days. Floridians love the beach, boating and engaging in other outdoors activities. Nonetheless, with this great climate comes continuous sun exposure that can increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of new melanoma cases (skin cancer) is on the rise. It is estimated that over 1 million people per year are diagnosed with skin cancer. Approximately 7% of those cancers were melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that takes place in the cells that produce the pigment of our skin (melanocytes). Melanoma is also known as malignant melanoma because this type of skin cancer can spread to other areas of the body. It can occur anywhere on the body. Melanoma affects people of all ages, although it is most common in adults. In men, it is found most often on the trunk (shoulder to the hips region) and is the 6th most common cancer. In women, it forms most often on the arms and legs and is the 2nd most common cancer.
Melanoma in the foot or ankle is often overlook as a majority of people tend to neglect their feet. For these reasons, melanoma in the foot usually goes unnoticed during its earliest stages. When melanoma is diagnosed in the foot or ankle, it typically presents in a more advanced stage. Treatment is easiest during the early stages and becomes more difficult as the melanoma cancer advances. It’s also important to know melanoma cancer can develop in the toenail, called subungual melanoma. Melanoma does not always have to be pigmented and can be amelanotic (unpigmented).
So, who is at risk for melanoma? Anyone can have melanoma, including people with darker skin tones. However, there are characteristics that increase one’s risk of developing melanoma. Risk factors include but are not limited to: having a fair complexion (people with freckles, light colored eyes or red hair), being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight, exposure to certain factors in the environment (solvents, vinyl chloride, and PCBs), having a history of repeated sun burns, having several large or many small moles, a family history of skin cancer, and having genetic predisposition.
Early detection is crucial to successfully treating Melanoma cancer. Therefore, it’s important for you to know what to look for. Performing routine foot exams will reduce the risk of undiagnosed melanoma on the foot or ankle. There are four signs to look for when examining your feet or other parts of your body for melanoma. These four signs are known as the ABCDs of melanoma (asymmetry, border, color, and diameter). These signs will help you when performing self-inspection of moles and other unusual spots on your feet. When performing self-inspection of the foot make sure you examine your toe nails for discoloration as well as between your toe. You may even want to take pictures to have as a way to compare appearance overtime. If any of these signs are present on the foot, it is important to see a specialist right away.
In addition to performing routine self-inspection, there are other precautionary measures one may utilize to reduce the risk of melanoma which include: wearing water shoes or socks with shoes, using adequate sunscreen including on the soles and top of your feet, Inspect all areas of the feet daily, including the soles, underneath toenails and between the toes, remove nail polish to examine underneath your nail, avoid UV radiation during the sun’s peak hours (10:00am to 4:00pm) beginning at birth (sun exposure is especially damaging to children and adolescents), wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of all UV rays (UVA and UVB), and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Melanoma is usually asymmetric, which means one half is different in shape from the other half.
Border irregularity often indicates melanoma. The border, or edge, is typically ragged, notched or blurred.
Melanoma is typically a mix of colors or hues, rather than a single, solid color.
Melanoma grows in diameter, whereas moles remain small. A spot that is larger than 5 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) is cause for concern.
Remember, early detection is critical with malignant melanoma. If detected and treated before it spreads, the 5-year survival rate is over 95%. If you see any of the ABCD signs or if you have discoloration beneath a toenail be sure to visit a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible.
Family Foot and Leg Center
9510 Corkscrew Palms Cir #3, ESTERO
6846 International Center Blvd., Suite B, FORT MYERS
1645 Colonial Blvd., FORT MYERS
530 SE 16th Pl., Cape Coral