We usually slather sun lotion onto our faces, neck and arms and even manage to get down to our thighs or calves but feet—well, they typically are forgotten.
Sunburned feet while wearing sandals or flip flops without sunscreen can increase the risk of developing skin cancer of the foot. Foot melanoma is a deadly form of cancer that is also more difficult to notice as it can appear in places that do not get much sun such as the bottom of the foot or in between toes.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that occurs in the melanocytes, the cells that give skin color, which is why many melanomas are brown or black (but not always). Melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer but it is one of the most serious because it can spread. The cure rate is high though, over 92% if caught in early stages.
The incidence of melanoma is on the rise. In 2009, it is estimated that almost 70,000 people, about 30,000 being women, will be diagnosed with melanoma. Almost 9,000 of those diagnosed will die. People who are white have more than 10 times the risk of getting melanoma compared to African Americans but more than half the cases of melanoma in African Americans occur on the foot, often on the bottom of the foot.
Many of us have a variety of skin marks, freckles or moles which are non cancerous overgrowths of melanocytes. People who have a lot of moles have a greater chance of developing melanoma so they should have regular skin exams done by a dermatologist. Also, people who have a family member who was diagnosed with melanoma have a higher risk of developing it and they should be checked more frequently for skin changes.
Once a month, you should take a little extra time to examine your feet after you step out of the shower. Foot and ankle surgeons suggest people look at the three areas where melanoma typically develops. First, check the soles of your feet, then in between toes and finally under your toenails.
The signs to look for have a simple abbreviation to remember: ABCDE.
Check to make sure moles, freckles or “beauty” marks have not changed and become asymmetrical or lost their clearly defined border. Note if their color has changed and become darker. Look to see if the diameter of any mark has gotten larger, especially moles, or if a flat mark has become enlarged.
Melanoma can occur in any part of the body and strike at any age, even to those that are young. So next time you are putting sunscreen on your legs, don’t just stop at your ankles, make sure you include your feet and take a really good look at your skin. Hopefully, you won’t find anything of concern but luckily if you do, chances are it can be effectively treated.
American Cancer Society Melanoma info
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles