Skin Cancer and The Foot

Painted toes lounging poolside with a good book in hand soaking up the summer’s sun.  Although it warms our earth, helps to grow our food and blasts away winter’s gloom, the sun does present a danger to our health- early aging and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the result of unfixable changes to the blueprint of the cell (the DNA). These alterations to our blueprint lead to abnormal growth of the skin cells that can spread throughout dominating our other bodily organs. Sometimes these changes to the blueprint just happen and other times the changes can be provoked. One culprit is the sun.

How does the sun’s rays affect our skin?  The sun produces ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB), which we feel as heat. This UV radiation hits our cells and rearranges our skin’s DNA. Usually, our bodies are able to notice and correct these changes, however, over time our editing abilities deteriorate and our DNA blueprints no longer pass inspection. Wearing protective clothing, seeking shade and wearing sunscreen are all methods to protect from the suns harmful mutating rays. When purchasing sunscreen you want to purchase a SPF 15 for everyday wear and a SPF 30 for extended time outside. You should purchase a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which now due to recent FDA changes covers both UVA and UVB radiations.  Both forms of UV radiation have been show to have a role in cell mutations causing skin cancers and early aging. Sunscreen should be applied at least one half hour prior to heading outdoors.

A brown or black line on your toenail can be an early sign of melanoma, and should be medically evaluated. In persons of African descent a black line on the toenail can be normal variant called “longitudinal melanonychia”, however, if the pigmented line has suddenly appeared or changed drastically it should be evaluated by a doctor. Additionally, if you notice a brown/black pigment “leaking” from the nail into the surrounding skin a phenomenon know as the Hutchinson’s sign you should seek an appointment as soon as possible to rule out melanoma.

You should regularly inspect your skin to ensure that it is healthy. If concerned an appointment with a dermatologist to have the lesion appropriately evaluated.  When you inspect your moles and beauty marks remember your “ABCDEF”.

A: Asymmetrical – one half of the mole should match the other in size and shape.

B: Borders – edges should be regularly shaped without the edges being irregularly notched. 

C: Color – color should be uniformed without variant.

D: Diameter – Marks larger than a pencil end eraser in size should be evaluated.

E: Elevation/Evolving – the mole or beauty mark should be even with surrounding skin.  Has the mole or beauty mark changed significantly?

F: Family History – Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with skin cancer?

Our skin is our largest organ and our greatest defense against the outside world. It helps protect us against infection, provides our sense of touch and makes vitamin D for our bodies, however, without proper protection our skin can morph into something dangerous. The skin on our feet is not immune to the risks of sun exposure and should be pampered, protected and inspected. If you are concerned about changes to your skin or toenails please see a podiatrist.

More information about skin cancer and sun safety can be found at the links below:

http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin/what-to-look-for

http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-cancer/DS00190

http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/skin-cancer-facts