Being Well

Don’t Forget a Skin Cancer Check on These Body Parts

Cancer can start anywhere, including your feet. Learn more about melanoma and how you can protect your entire body with a skin cancer check.

When you think of skin cancer, you probably think to check the parts of your body that get the most sun: your legs, arms and chest. But did you also know you should perform a skin cancer check on all parts of your body, even the ones that get little to no sun?

It’s possible to get skin cancer anywhere on your body — including your feet, eyelids, palms and genitals, to name a few. That’s why the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you check your body head to toe once a month for irregularities. While it’s unlikely you’ll develop melanoma on say, your foot, it’s important to check.

There are many ways you can protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of developing skin cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Along with the rest of your body, it’s important to regularly examine your feet, nails, underarms and scalp for any signs of skin cancer, including the bottoms of your feet, between your toes and the palms of your hands. Keep any eye out for any signs that might indicate skin cancer is present, including:

  • Sores that bleed, crust over or ooze liquid for long periods of time and won’t heal
  • Shiny bumps or raised red patches that itch
  • Pink growths that dip in the middle and have raised borders
  • Irregular moles or freckles

Certain skin cancers, called melanomas, usually appear as new moles or as changes to existing moles. You should regularly check the moles on your feet, underarm or face for any signs of melanoma, including an irregular shape, changes in color or size and uneven edges or borders.

Skin Cancer Check on Your Scalp and Face

While you can probably notice something irregular on your face, it’s important to regularly check your scalp, behind your ears and around your eyelids. Actually, sebaceous gland carcinoma, a rare type of skin cancer, is usually found on your eyelids, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It can look like a routine eye problem, but the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to treat. For prevention, make sure to wear a hat when outside, as well as UV-resistant sunglasses (have a few pairs, in case you lose or break your pair).

Preventing Melanoma on Your Feet and Hands

Additionally, you should look for irregular bumps and moles on your hands, feet and underarms. That includes acral lentiginous melanoma, which usually appears as a dark streak under your nails, on the soles of your feet or on your palms. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, that’s more common in darker skin tones.

While it’s not possible to totally prevent skin cancer on your hands or feet, there are many things you can do to lower your risk:

  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing shoes and socks, and especially gloves when working outside.
  • Use sunscreen to protect your skin if your feet and hands are exposed to the sun (and don’t forget to reapply to those spots!).
  • Occasionally remove any nail polish to check your finger and toenails for signs of cancer.
  • Regularly check your hands and feet for signs of cancer.
  • Keep sunscreen in your car to reapply and consider getting UV-window protection.

If you’re concerned about any symptoms you may have, the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor. She can examine your whole body and determine whether there’s cause for concern. A conversation with your doctor is one of the best preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk.

UVA Cancer Center offers an array of services and treatments for skin cancer prevention. Learn more about our annual skin cancer screening event.

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Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN