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Walking on Thin Ice - Types of Foot Skin Cancers

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Did you know that your feet could be a hidden hotspot for skin cancer?

While skin cancer on your feet might not be as prevalent as on more sun-exposed areas, it can still sneak up on you, camouflaging itself as other foot troubles.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at foot skin cancers, the warning signs to watch out for, and why detecting them early is crucial for your overall health.

Types of Skin Cancer on the Foot

Understanding the different types of skin cancer that can affect your feet is essential for early detection and prompt treatment.

Let's explore the various types of foot skin cancers, including melanoma of the foot, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma, shedding light on their characteristics, risk factors, and potential warning signs.

Foot melanoma

Foot melanoma refers to melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, specifically affecting the skin of your feet.

While melanoma on the foot is not as common as in other areas that receive more sun exposure, it can still occur, particularly on the soles, under the nails, or between the toes.

Early detection of foot melanoma is crucial, as it can often masquerade as other benign foot conditions.

Being vigilant about changes in moles, the appearance of an irregular skin lesion, or dark streaks on the foot can help identify potential signs of foot melanoma and facilitate prompt medical attention.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma On Foot

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that can develop on the foot and originates from the squamous cells, which are present in the outermost layer of the skin.

Chronic sun exposure, previous skin disorders, and even factors like a fungal infection can contribute to the development of SCC on the foot.

Recognising warning signs such as persistent ulcers and open sores is crucial for early detection and treatment, as SCC can potentially spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes if left untreated.

Basal cell carcinoma

basal cell carcinoma close-up

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a common type of skin cancer that can also affect the foot, although it's less frequently found in this area.

It arises from the basal cells of the skin, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis.

BCC on the foot may present with unique characteristics, such as non-healing sores, bumps, or scaly areas.

While BCC tends to grow slowly and is less likely to spread to other parts of the body, early diagnosis and treatment are still vital to prevent further damage and complications.

Other types

In addition to malignant melanoma, SCC, and BCC, there are other types of skin cancers that can affect the foot. These less common types include amelanotic melanoma and nodular melanoma.

Amelanotic melanoma presents as a skin lesion without the typical dark pigmentation, making it more challenging to identify.

Nodular melanoma is an aggressive form of melanoma that grows rapidly and can appear as a raised, firm bump on the foot.

Understanding the characteristics and potential variations of these other types of skin cancers is essential for recognising any abnormal changes on the foot and seeking appropriate medical evaluation.

Risk Factors for Foot Skin Cancer

While anyone can develop foot skin cancer, certain factors can increase the risk of its occurrence.

It's crucial to be aware of these risk factors to understand the potential vulnerability and take proactive measures for prevention and early detection.

Let's explore the various factors that contribute to the development of foot skin cancer, such as:

  • Sun exposure. Prolonged and intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, including regular exposure without adequate protection, increases the risk of developing melanoma and other forms of foot skin cancer.
  • Personal and family history. Having a personal history of skin cancer or a family history of the disease raises your risk of developing foot skin cancer.
  • Skin types. Individuals with fair skin, light hair, freckles, or a tendency to sunburn easily are more susceptible to foot skin cancer.
  • Chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation of the skin, such as from previous skin disorders or long-term foot infections, can contribute to an increased risk of foot skin cancer.
  • Occupational exposures. Certain occupations that involve prolonged exposure to harmful substances or chemicals can elevate the risk of skin cancer, including on your feet.
  • Immunocompromised conditions. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive medications, have an increased susceptibility to skin cancer, particularly SCC.

Please note that these risk factors are not exhaustive, and individual circumstances may vary. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive assessment of your specific risk factors and recommendations.

Signs & Symptoms of Skin Cancer on Foot

Recognising the signs and symptoms of skin cancer on the foot is crucial for early diagnosis and timely intervention.

Foot skin cancer can present with various indicators that may differ from those seen in other parts of the body.

Let's explore the common warning signs and symptoms to watch out for, such as:

  • Unusual skin lesions. Pay attention to any new skin lesions or growths on the foot that have irregular borders and appear different from your normal skin. These may include raised bumps, patches of discoloured skin, or areas that are rough and scaly.
  • Changing moles. Monitor any changes in existing moles on the foot. Look for alterations in size, colour, shape, or texture, as well as the development of irregular borders.
  • Non-healing sores. Persistent sores or ulcers on the foot that do not heal within a reasonable timeframe should be examined, as they may be indicative of skin cancer.
  • Abnormal growth. Any abnormal growths on the foot, such as nodules, lumps, or bumps, that increase in size or change in appearance should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • Bleeding or crusting. Skin lesions on the foot that bleed, ooze, or develop a crust should be investigated further, as they may be potential signs of skin cancer.
  • Changes in nail bed. Keep an eye on changes in the toenails, such as dark streaks, discolouration, or irregularities in nail shape or texture, as these can sometimes be associated with nail melanoma.

Please note that these signs and symptoms are general indicators and may vary from person to person. It's important to consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or notice any unusual changes on your foot.

How feet are treated for skin cancer

When it comes to treating skin cancer on the feet, a multi-faceted approach is often employed, considering factors such as the type and stage of the cancer, its location on the foot, and individual patient considerations.

Let's explore the various treatment options available when foot skin cancer develops, such as:

  • Surgical excision. Surgical excision involves the removal of the cancerous legion and a margin of healthy tissue surrounding it. It's a common treatment option for localised skin cancers on the foot.
  • Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a specialised technique that involves the removal of skin cancer layer by layer, with each layer examined under a microscope until all cancer cells are removed. It's often used for skin cancers on the foot, particularly those with complex or recurring characteristics.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancerous cells. It may be recommended for foot skin cancer cases where surgical intervention is not feasible or as an adjustment treatment following surgery to ensure all cancer cells are eradicated.
  • Topical medications. Certain topical medications, such as creams or gels containing chemotherapy or immunotherapy agents, may be prescribed for superficial skin cancers on the foot. These medications work by targeting and destroying cancer cells directly on the skin's surface.

Please note that the choice of treatment options depends on various factors. Treatment plans should be discussed with a healthcare professional experienced in skin cancer management.

Take action now to prevent skin cancers

In order to prevent skin cancers on the foot, it's important to take proactive steps towards sun safety and foot health.

This includes protecting your feet from harmful UV rays with appropriate footwear and sunscreen, conducting regular self-examinations to identify any changes or abnormalities, maintaining good foot hygiene, and seeking professional advice from healthcare providers.

By being proactive and vigilant, you can minimise the risk of developing skin cancers on your feet and prioritise your overall well-being.

Prevention is key, and taking action now can make all the difference in protecting yourself.

Visit a SunDoctors clinic to talk to a skin cancer professional

Female skin patient talking to skin clinic professional

The team at SunDoctors skin cancer clinics take great pride in educating the community about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention. SunDoctors is a leading provider of skin cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and education. With clinics operating in over 31 locations across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, SunDoctors patients are guaranteed a rapid diagnosis, pathology and referral.

For more information about SunDoctors, to learn more about melanoma checks and self-examinations, or to book a skin cancer check, free call 13 – 7546 (13 – skin) or book online at sundoctors.com.au.

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