The temperatures are rising here in Minnesota, which means it will soon be time to take your sandals and flip flops back out of your closet. Sandals can be a great way to help your feet breath during the hot summer months, but they can also expose your feet to harmful UV rays. Most people put sunscreen on their face, neck and arms, but oftentimes we forget to get the top of our feet, and that can leave you susceptible to skin cancer. Here’s a closer look at how skin cancer on your feet is caused, diagnosed and treated.
Foot Skin Cancer Causes and Symptoms
As we noted above, skin cancer of the foot can be caused by harmful and prolonged exposure to UV rays, but that’s not the only way cancers can develop. Other common causes of skin cancer on your feet include:
Exposure to harmful chemicals
Chronic irritation or inflammation
Most skin cancers don’t have a lot of symptoms during their early stages. Oftentimes they are painless, but the discoloration may crack or bleed from time to time. Symptoms also vary based on the time of cancer that develops, which we explain in the next section.
Types of Foot Cancers
There are a number of different types of foot cancers. We break them down below:
Basal Cell Carcinoma – A basal cell carcinoma is typically the result of excessive sun exposure. This form of skin cancer is not very aggressive, and while it can cause localized damage, it typically doesn’t spread beyond the skin. Basal cell cancers can appear as pearl-colored or white bumps that may ooze or become scaly like an open sore.
Malignant Melanoma – A malignant melanoma is one of the deadliest types of skin cancer. Non-operative treatment is rarely successful. Early detection is crucial to ensure the patient has the best chance of survival. These types of cancers can develop on the foot, under the foot or underneath the toenail. A malignant melanoma comes in many different forms, as it can be either black, blackish-brown, pink or red. They may appear to look like a common mole, but closer inspection will show that it does not pass the ABCD Skin Cancer Test. If not treated early, the cancer can spread into the lymph nodes and blood vessels.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma – A squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer on the feet. Like basal cell carcinomas, oftentimes they stay contained to the skin and do not spread. That said, if left untreated, they can become aggressive and spread. This type of cancer starts as a small, scaly bump or rough patch, and it may crack or bleed over time. It usually isn’t painful, but it may become irritated or itchy easily.
Although carcinomas aren’t typically aggressive, any growth or mole that develops or expands should be looked at by a podiatrist or a foot surgeon as soon as possible. Your doctor will conduct a skin biopsy to determine if the lesion is cancerous. If it is indeed cancerous, your doctor will walk you through your removal options. That being said, the best course of action is prevention, so be sure to apply sunscreen to your feet when you’re outside.