I wanted to share with my friends something important. It came to my attention serendipitously through a recent patient encounter and in a instance involving myself. Being summertime, many of us enjoy the outdoors. We spend time with our friends and family. We gather by the pool for barbeques, cut the lawn, mend the garden, many of us go out for runs, or bike rides. It’s a great time of year!
Man, that sun is hot! Its strong and it doesn’t take much exposure to get burned up!
I know this first hand as I am often running or swimming with the kids.
Recently, I noted a spot on my back. Of course it was in a spot I couldn’t see. It was light and dark brown mixed and didn’t go away on its own. After about two months, I decided to get it checked after speaking with a patient regarding her experience with melanoma.
Lucky for me, it wasn’t this worst case of skin cancers and I am looking forward to father’s day with my children. But what if I ignored it, or worse, never knew it was there in the first place?
While melanoma of the foot is not very common for me to see in practice, Emerald Coast Podiatry always keeps a keen eye out for it because the condition is devastating. I have decided to blog info I feel is extremely important because early detection of malignant melanoma is essential!
What is Malignant Melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells of the skin that produce pigmentation (coloration). It is also called malignant melanoma because it spreads to other areas of the body as it grows beneath the surface of the skin. Unlike many other types of cancer, melanoma strikes people of all age groups, even the young.
Melanoma in the Foot
Melanoma that occurs in the foot or ankle often goes unnoticed during its earliest stage, when it would be more easily treated. By the time melanoma of the foot or ankle is diagnosed, it frequently has progressed to an advanced stage, accounting for a higher mortality rate. This makes it extremely important to follow prevention and early detection measures involving the feet as well as other parts of the body.
Most cases of melanoma are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. This exposure can include intense UV radiation obtained during short periods, or lower amounts of radiation obtained over longer periods.
Anyone can get melanoma, but some factors put a person at greater risk for developing this type of cancer. These include:
Fair skin; skin that freckles; blond or red hair
Blistering sunburns before the age of 18
Numerous moles, especially if they appeared at a young age
What Should You Look For?
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, even in areas of the body not exposed to the sun. Melanoma usually looks like a spot on the skin that is predominantly brown, black, or blue—although in some cases it can be mostly red or even white. However, not all areas of discoloration on the skin are melanoma.
There are four signs—known as the ABCDs of melanoma—to look for when self-inspecting moles and other spots on the body:
Asymmetry -- Melanoma is usually asymmetric, which means one half is different in shape from the other half.
Border -- Border irregularity often indicates melanoma. The border—or edge—is typically ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color -- Melanoma is typically a mix of colors or hues, rather than a single, solid color.
Diameter-- 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.
All 5 Characteristics shown here
If any of these signs are present on the foot, it is important to see us at emerald coast podiatry or your dermatologist right away. It is also essential to see a surgeon if there is discoloration of any size underneath a toenail (unless the discoloration was caused by trauma, such as stubbing a toe or having something fall on it). Especially if you have a history of malignant melanoma
To diagnose melanoma, we will ask the patient a few questions. For example: Is the spot old or new? Have you noticed any changes in size or color? If so, how rapidly has this change occurred?
We also exam