Skin Cancer – Don’t Ignore Your Feet
In general, skin care of the foot and ankle is often ignored. Of course, a good dermatologist will examine your feet and ankles for skin cancer in a routine screening. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to be proactive in between exams and be on the lookout for any abnormalities, such as new skin lesions.
I know, it’s a little scary at first. I also know what you’re thinking: “What do these abnormalities look like?” I actually approach it from a different angle and shed light on what melanoma and other skin cancer lesions DON’T look like. In fact, I can give you the A, B, C’s…as well as the D’s and E’s…of it. That being said, if you detect a new skin lesion on your feet, ankles or anywhere else, keep the following in mind:
Asymmetry: The skin lesion should be symmetric in shape, so that if you were to draw a line though it, it would look the same on both sides.
Borders: Whether the lesion is raised or flat against the skin, its borders should be smooth. In other words, look for a clear delineation between the lesion and the surrounding skin.
Color: Although hard to tell with the naked eye, the lesion should be one solid color extending along its diameter. Be sure that it doesn’t contain mixed shades or isn’t faded in parts.
Diameter: Size matters when it comes to skin lesions, and the magic number is 6mm. That’s about the diameter of the standard ball point pen. If you’re in that range, that’s good news.
Evolving: Keeping an eye on the lesion for a period of time is actually the most important thing you can do here. How long have you had the lesion? Have you noticed any changes in size, color, shape or symmetry? Are you experiencing any new symptoms, such as itching or drainage of any kind? If the answer is no, then again, good news.
By the way, skin lesions can be found hidden between the toes, under nails and other place you might not think to look, so be sure to check your entire feet and ankles thoroughly. Once you’ve done that and have met the five main points I outlined above, you should still see a medical professional to take a look at the lesion. Benign lesions can become dangerous or malignant, and if diagnosis is delayed, the disease can spread to the rest of the body and even cause death. Sorry for the bluntness, but I want you to be aware so you can protect yourself.
What should you expect if your doctor is suspicious about a particular lesion? Well, first remember that you’ll be in good hands. He or she will most likely perform a skin biopsy to rule out cancer. If the lesion is indeed malignant, you may require surgery to remove the cancerous growth and even need chemotherapy.
If you walk away with anything from this article it should be that early detection is crucial. Skin care and evaluation for suspicious skin lesions on your feet, ankle and entire body should be done at least once a month, at a minimum. During this time, also remember to report any changes in your health to your doctor, even if you feel it’s unrelated to a lesion.
Podiatry is about every facet of foot and ankle care, including your skin. Care is the operative word here, because we truly care about anything that sidelines you from your daily life. Walk in good health!
Jonathan R. Roy, DPM, MS
Deloor Podiatry Associates