Skin cancer of the legs, ankles, and feet are some of the most overlooked cancers.
They are found in locations where most people consider skin cancers unlikely. Over 90% of skin cancers appear on sun-exposed skin, usually found on the face, neck, ears, forearms, and hands, but an alarming number are also found in the legs, ankles, and feet.
Why does sun cause skin cancer? Overexposure to sunlight damages the top layer, or epidermis of the skin. The most dangerous skin cancer is called melanoma, meaning a tumor of pigment producing cells. Melanomas can spread early to the lungs, liver, and brain making it a rapidly fatal cancer. It is expected that something over 8,500 people will die from skin cancers this year! Most melanomas can be cured with early diagnosis and treatment.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas occur commonly on the forehead, lips, and hands but they can be found on the arms hands, legs, and feet. These cancers can spread and early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
Basal Cell Carcinomas rarely spread to distant structures, but, if untreated, can destroy large portions of the face, scalp, nose, ears, and vast areas of skin. They can result in gross disfigurement if not treated early. Fair-skinned people are at greater risk for these cancers.
My heartfelt advice:
1. Please, have your moles and skin lesions checked. To put off doing so could be fatal. Ask your primary care physician or dermatologist to do a yearly skin check, all over. Don’t be modest about this. Your life could be at stake. I routinely check patients for suspicious moles and lesions on their legs, ankles, and feet. You need at least a yearly check-up with your podiatrist.
2. Use sun blocks to protect exposed skin, even in winter and don’t forget your legs and feet if they will be exposed!
3. Learn the ABCDs of skin cancer:
Asymmetry – The sides don’t match.
Border – It looks uneven or ragged.
Color – It has more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.
Diameter – They appear wider than a pencil eraser. Also, look for ulceration, craters, donut-shaped edges, bleeding, or slow healing if the lesion is ulcerated. Any mole on the toes or the bottom of the foot is suspicious. If you notice a mole on a friend or family member that meets any of these criteria, gently encourage them to get it checked “to be safe”.