Did you know that skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the United States? According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop this life-threatening disease by the age of 70. Therefore, due to its prevalence, more people are raising awareness about preventing melanoma.
In an attempt to help you achieve #YourHealthiestSkin throughout National Healthy Skin Month and beyond, our melanoma alternative treatment specialists here at New Hope Medical Center are placing the spotlight on cancer-prone areas that often escape notice.
Unexpected Skin Cancer Locations
Although melanoma usually occurs in the nose, arms, chest, and legs, it can also develop in the most unusual places. From your scalp to your pinky toe, here are the strange places you can get skin cancer:
- Under a nail
This “subungual melanoma” can develop under a fingernail or toenail. The thumb and big toe are the most common sites, but melanoma can appear under any nail.
In an overwhelming number of cases, skin cancer occurence in this inconspicuous spot is not a result of excessive sun exposure. However, a previous nail injury is a potential cause. Visit your dermatologist if dark lines or streaks under your nail emerges for no reason.
- Soles of the feet and in between toes
Skin cancer that affects the soles of the feet or the space in between the toes usually begins as a dark and unelevated patch. About 3 to 15 percent of melanomas occur on the foot. Also called acral lentiginous melanoma, this form of skin cancer is more common among people of color than light-skinned individuals.
- Palms of the hands and in between fingers
Skin cancer that affects the palm of the hands is a variant of acral lentiginous melanoma. It also affects more African-Americans and Asians than White people.
Excessive sun exposure is a leading cause of skin cancer on the eyelid. You have the option to remove the lump or lesion through surgery. In most cases, melanoma of the eyelid is not serious if diagnosed and treated early. The cancer begins most often in the basal cells in the upper layer of the skin (epidermis). A more severe form develops in the squamous cells, which are closer to the skin’s surface. The latter type of skin cancer is more aggressive, meaning it can grow much quicker and spread easily to neighboring tissues.
Consult your doctor if you have a persistent sore or bump on your head, as around 13 percent of all skin malignancies develop on the scalp. They are usually the less serious nonmelanoma skin cancers like squamous and basal cell carcinoma.
- Inside the ear
In the absence of treatment, neglected skin cancer on the outside of the ear (squamous or basal cell) can spread and invade the inside of the ear. This metastasis can impact the ear canal, the tiny bones in the middle ear, the hair-like nerves in the inner ear that send signals to the brain, as well as the temporal bone that encases it all.
Flat, hard, white patches called leukoplakia on the surface of the skin of the tongue, as well as a tingling sensation, loss of feeling, and a persistent lump or sore characterize squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. The risk of developing this malignant disorder increases if you smoke or drink too much alcohol, and especially if you do both.
- Under tattoos
If you have tattoos and love showing them off in tank tops or shorts, then your poor skin is likely receiving too much sun. One misconception is that tattoos offer a layer of protection against the sun and its harmful rays. In truth, some ink colors, particularly white, can intensify the amount of sun damage you take. Tattoos can also conceal certain symptoms of skin cancer since you may not notice them under the artwork.
A word of advice: Never forget to apply sunscreen all over your body, especially on your tattoos. If the sun is beaming and you will be running errands for hours, choose clothing with ultraviolet protection factor or UPF 50.
Genital melanomas are not as uncommon as most people would think. The cause is not usually due to nude sunbathing, but rather cancer metastasizing or spreading from another part of the body. Therefore, if you notice something peculiar in your genital area, it is best to schedule a complete physical and medical examination with a dermatologist or oncologist.
In some cases, melanoma skin cancer can occur around and inside areas that the sun does not even reach, including the anus and in the gastrointestinal tract. The common symptoms include blood in the stool, pain when defecating, and changes in bowel movements, all of which are also symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip #1: Know Your Risk
Consult your physician about any family history of skin cancer. Additional factors that raise your susceptibility to sun damage and melanoma include:
- Light skin, hair, or eyes
- Too many moles of varying shapes and sizes
- Prolonged hours in the sun
- Medication that makes the skin more sensitive to light
- Health issues or drugs that weaken the immune system
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip #2: Always Check Your Skin
Skin cancer is often curable, especially if you find it early and seek immediate medical care. Give your skin a thorough inspection once a month or so. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and examine your body for new or unusual growths, including any changes in old spots. Using a chair and a hand-held mirror can also help you assess the more intimate parts of your body. See a dermatologist once a year or whenever you notice something odd.
Skin Cancer Survivorship: Know Your Options
If you are looking for safe, less invasive, and comprehensive treatments for melanoma, choose New Hope Unlimited. Our team is a leading provider of skin cancer alternative treatments that target the root causes of disease without compromising the quality of life. If you wish to schedule a consultation, you may reach us at 480-757-6573. A healthier you awaits.