Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that spreads through the skin, starting in the cells that produce skin color. The pigment that produces skin coloration is known as melanin and melanocytes produce it in the deeper layers of the skin. Melanoma is essentially a melanocyte cancer.
On the foot, melanoma is particularly dangerous, as it is not always noticed as easily as it is in other areas of the body. The prognosis is also less optimistic when melanoma is present on the foot than on many other areas of the body. During the summer months as well, many people forget to put sunscreen on their feet and nails and so these areas can have increased sun exposure.
Melanoma can affect all ages. The earliest stages of skin cancer are highly treatable but if it goes unnoticed it can be life-threatening. As such, preventative care is important as is early detection of melanoma.
Melanoma can occur for a variety of reasons but usually happens from UV light exposure from the sun or tanning beds. UV light ultimately damages the skin and can damage the DNA in the cells of the skin. This leads to the production of abnormal cells and cancerous growth. UV exposure can damage the skin whether a person spends a lot or a little time in the sun or a tanning bed. Melanoma is typically diagnosed with the “A to E” diagnostic signs: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolution. The physicians at Kansas City Foot and Ankle always look for these signs any time a suspicious skin lesion is identified.
Follow these simple steps to decrease your risk of developing skin cancer and melanoma:
- Evaluate your skin periodically and look for any concerning spots or lesions that you think are new or have changed. Make a habit of checking over your whole body, including your feet and ankles. Be on the lookout for new moles, changes to existing moles, or just any kind of spot that you didn’t see before. Use the ABCDE method and look for Asymmetry; uneven Borders; changes in Color; a Diameter greater than 6 millimeters and some sort of change or Evolution in shape, color, texture, or size.
- Protect your skin: Always use sunscreen and cover up! You can’t completely eliminate the risk of developing skin cancer, but controlling sun exposure is the one factor you can control. Aim for at least SPF 30 and be sure to apply to your feet on the top and on the bottom.
- Stay away from tanning beds: Tanning beds are an even greater source of danger for UV light exposure. Avoid their use!
Screening for foot melanoma should be performed by a professional since it’s so hard to detect in its earliest and most treatable stages. If you have any suspicious lesions you are concerned about, have the experts at Kansas City Foot and Ankle evaluate your feet as soon as possible.