When we think of the damaging effects the sun has on our skin, we tend to think more about our face, neck, arms and hands – rarely do we consider our feet.
Your podiatrist, however, being specifically trained to see what we miss and can spot issues with our lower legs and feet. When it comes to skin cancer of the feet, lesions are associated with the cancer can have a very different look on the feet than skin cancer elsewhere on the body.
If you suspect that there is something abnormal going on with your feet, your podiatrist will first investigate the chances of skin cancer with a thorough examination and a biopsy if necessary. The biopsy is nothing more than a very simple procedure of removing a piece of the lesion in question and sending it to the lab for analysis.
There are three common types of cancer of the feet:
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma: This type of cancer is typically seen on skin that is exposed to the sun, so it appears less often on the feet as they are typically less exposed to the sun’s rays. This is the least aggressive of the cancer types and will cause damage to the local area without spreading much. It is typically characterized by pearly white bumps or patches that can ooze and sometimes takes on the look of an open sore.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common form of cancer of the feet. While it too will stay local and not spread for the most part, in its advanced stages it can spread throughout the body. Squamous Cell Carcinoma can often begin as a small scaly bump that looks to be inflamed and is typically painless but it can be itchy.
3. Malignant Melanoma: This is one of the deadliest skin cancers known and nonsurgical treatments are rarely if ever effective. In fact, most are still experimental. Melanomas can appear anywhere on the skin of the feet such as the soles and the top of the foot as well as under the nail. As a melanoma grows, it goes deeper into the skin and can eventually end up spreading throughout the body. Malignant melanoma can take on many different appearances but is most widely seen first as a small brown or black bump but can also lack the brown pigment and appear to be pink or even red.
While the sun is typically to blame for skin cancer elsewhere on the body, when it comes to the skin cancers that affect the feet, viruses or exposure to certain chemicals may be actually be to blame.
Because your primary care physician will typically overlook the skin of the feet when doing an exam looking for skin cancer, it’s important to have your feet checked regularly for any abnormalities.