Unlike the rest of your body which is covered by clothing and easily protected from the sun, our fingers are often forgotten about when it comes to sun protection. This is especially so when it comes to applying sunscreen. And our fingers, in particular, receive large amounts of incidental sun exposure every day, whether it's from driving in the car or spending time outside - even sitting indoors.
Depending on the type of skin cancer, there are some early warning signs to watch for when it comes to detecting skin cancer on your fingers.
Can you get skin cancer on your finger?
Two of the three main types of skin cancers - basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma - are common on the fingers. The third type of skin cancer, melanoma, is less commonly found on fingers. Cutaneous cancers on the fingers occur because the skin is exposed to sunlight throughout the day.
Risk factors for skin cancer on fingers
- Spending a lot of time exposed to UV rays with proper sun protection
- Having fair hair, light skin type or eye colour
- Having a suppressed immune system
- A family history of skin cancer
- Having a large number of moles, particularly dysplastic nevus (see below)
- A history of sunburns or using tanning beds
Common types of skin cancers that can appear on fingers
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
Less common types of skin cancers on fingers
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- Cutaneous t-cell lymphoma
- Paget's disease
- Bowen's disease or squamous cell carcinoma in situ
- Kaposi's sarcoma
What about moles on my fingers?
While most moles are harmless, some can be riskier than others.
Certain types of moles called atypical or dysplastic nevi look different from common moles. Although benign, they can appear with the features of a cancerous mole in that they can have irregular borders and can sometimes be quite large and range in colour from pink to brown. People with these particular types of moles are at increased risk of melanoma.
Having quite a few of these types of moles is known as dysplastic nevus syndrome. It is an inherited syndrome which also puts you at increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
Early-stage warning signs and symptoms of skin cancer on your finger
You might think your finger is an usual location for skin cancer, but skin cancers can strike anywhere that's exposed to ultraviolet rays. Squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma are all associated with chronic sun exposure that damages skin cells. Making an appointment at a skin cancer clinic for a proper diagnosis is important if you notice any of the following pre-malignant lesions on your fingers.
- Actinic keratosis is a pre-cancerous spot that can turn into skin cancer if left unchecked
- A cutaneous horn may develop into squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma
- Bowen's disease can appear as a red, scaly patch on the skin
- Lines or streaks under the nail bed on fingernails and toenails can be a sign of melanoma
What does skin cancer look like on a finger?
Here are some skin cancer warning signs to be aware of:
- A skin growth, lesion, bumps or spot that causes an itch, is bleeding or oozing or begins to crust
- A red or scaly patch, bump or lump
- Sores that do not heal
- New skin growths or moles, or change in size or shape to an existing mole or growth
- Small, firm nodules that can be brown, tan or translucent
How to check your finger for skin cancer
During a self-examination, it's important to pay particular attention to your hands and fingers for any changes to your skin such as a new growth or change in an old spot or mole. An easy way to remember what to be on the lookout for is to follow the ABCDEs of melanoma technique.
It's also critical to examine your fingernails and nail beds for lines or streaks, which could be an indication of skin cancer.
What to do if you suspect skin cancer
Skin cancer often begins as a subtle change. If you notice any of the above changes to your skin, you should seek the advice of a doctor as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
Talk to a doctor
The earlier a skin cancer is detected, the better. Statistics show that following up a warning sign with a doctor greatly improves treatment success rates and prevents skin cancers from spreading to other parts of the body.
Get a skin check
Have your fingers examined as part of a skin check for the whole body. It takes just minutes for a qualified doctor to rule out any suspicious spots on your body or recommend treatments should you require them.
Prevention of future cases
- Wear gloves while gardening and driving so your hands and fingers are protected from ultraviolet rays
- Protect yourself from the sun's rays by wearing sunglasses for your eyes and a hat to protect your face, lips, ears and neck
- Wear covered shoes when spending long periods in the sun to protect the sensitive skin on your toes and feet
- Apply sunscreen every day and don't forget sensitive areas such as your hands, feet and ears
It's important not to forget about your fingers when examining your skin for cancer warning signs. At SunDoctors, our highly qualified doctors are trained in skin cancer detection and treatment. If you have a query about an unusual or suspicious spot or skin growth on your fingers, hands or feet, book in for a skin check today.