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Skin cancer can be found in the most unlikely place -- your foot

Tonawanda News (NY)


May 19--The signs and symptoms of skin cancer might be well-known to some, perhaps as easy as your ABCs ... and Ds.

Any mole on the body that is Asymmetrical, has an uneven Border, an irregular Color or a large Diameter should be cause for concern.

But this May -- Skin Cancer Awareness Month -- the New York State Podiatric Medical Association suggests that people should look in an unlikely location for potentially cancerous spots on the skin: under and on top of your feet.

Melanoma on the foot is not all that common compared to other areas of the body, particularly those that get heavy exposure to the sun like the face, arms and shoulders, said Dr. James Hanna, the Western division president of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association.

"That's why it makes it such a dangerous area," he added.

"People assume, 'Oh, I can't get cancer on my foot so I won't pursue getting it checked out by a doctor,' " said Hanna, who has practices in both Lockport and Lewiston. "Some things get overlooked."

Hanna said the ABCD method is a great tool for determining if a mark or mole might be cancerous, but warned skin cancer on the feet could masquerade as other, more typical afflictions of the foot like fungal infections, a plantar wart, eczema or ulcer.

The important thing to look for, Hanna said, is when those typical afflictions don't get better.

Hannah suggests visiting your primary care physician or a podiatrist if a foot problem "doesn't respond to the kinds of remedies that should take care of it."

The NYSPMA warns people to pay particular attention to changes in the foot, such as non-healing sores, bumps that crack and bleed, nodules with rolled edges or scaly areas. Dr. Gary Stones, NYSPMA's president and a practicing podiatrist, said these things often go unnoticed.

"Most are painless, but often there's a history of recurrent cracking, itching, bleeding or ulceration," he said. "These cancers often go undiagnosed until another issue presents itself near the affected site."

And it's not just melanoma that could be cause for concern. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are types of skin cancers that look much different than typical melanoma, which often presents as a black mark or mole, Hanna said.

"I think something like melanoma gets a lot of press because it's a very bad cancer, but there are a lot of other cancers out there that don't look like a typical melanoma spot," he said. "There are a lot of other things like rashes, eczema, fungal infections and warts. A lot of things are very common and very benign and could masquerade as other things."

Pay attention to your toenails as well. Hanna said he's seen patients who visit him concerned about dark streaks growing through their nail bed.

"It could be because they have melanoma at root of nail and it discolors nail as it grows out," he said.

"Nails are a skin structure," Hanna reminded.

Ultimately, pay attention to your feet, Hanna said. If a mark or sore appears and doesn't check out using the ABCD method or doesn't heal properly, it's time to give your primary care physician or podiatrist a call.

"We always have to have a certain level of suspicion when things are not responding the way they should be," Hanna said.

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116, or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.


(c)2013 Tonawanda News (North Tonawanda, N.Y.)

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