When most people think of skin cancer, they think of too much tanning and spots on their faces or shoulders. Not many people think that their feet could be at risk for dangerous, even life-threatening, cancers of the skin.
Potentially Lethal Breeding Ground
Don’t be fooled. Skin cancer can occur in the feet, but because most people do not think about this warning signs are often missed. Rarely or never checking your feet allows the lesions to go unnoticed. The cells then multiply and spread—at the very least causing damage to the skin of your foot, and at the very worst metastasizing into the lymph and blood stream. All kinds of skin cancers are possible in your feet, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
The Offending Agents
Basal cell carcinoma is the mildest of the skin cancers, staying confined to the skin and not progressing very aggressively. These lesions generally appear as white bumps or patches and can be crusty, oozing, and look like sores. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common of the skin cancers found in the feet. In its early stages it usually stays confined to the skin, but as it advances it can become more aggressive and spread to other tissues as well. Generally it appears to be a scaly bump, often looks inflamed, and can be itchy—though it is otherwise painless.
Malignant melanoma is the fastest spreading and deadliest of the skin cancers. It usually begins as a dark spot, but can also be pink or red and resemble other common foot conditions, like toenail infections, bumps, bruises, and ulcers. If not caught in the early stages and removed, it spreads through the body and grows rapidly in other places. It’s estimated that half of the people diagnosed with malignant melanoma in their feet die within five years of their diagnosis, because it wasn’t discovered until after it had metastasized.
General care and daily foot inspections can help you catch dangerous changes. By looking over your feet as you wash and care for them, you are more likely to notice sudden variations in your skin. The soles, between your toes, and under and around the nails are the highest-risk places for a cancerous lesion to go unnoticed. Keep an eye out for unusual spots on your skin, especially if they are new. If a mole, freckle, or other spot starts to change or grow and become asymmetrical or change its borders, color, diameter, or elevation, have it checked immediately. Early detection is the key to recovering. The experts at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle can evaluate and diagnose the area of concern quickly, giving you more options for treatment.
If you have noticed any change in the skin on your feet, don’t ignore it and hope for the best—if it is cancer, the issue could easily become life threatening. Anyone who notices changes, but especially diabetics or other people who are prone to foot ulcers or other foot conditions, should seek help as soon as they can. Don’t wait and take the risk! The foot specialists at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle in Berkley, Michigan, are available for appointments or more information if you are concerned for your own feet or for those of someone you care about. Contact the office through the contact page on our website or by calling (248) 545-0100.