July 2016

Look to Your Soles for Skin Cancer Check

When you are doing a skin check this summer for skin cancer, don’t forget the soles of your feet.

A recent study looked at melanoma of the foot. Melanoma is a rare but very serious form of skin cancer. It makes up only 1 in 100 cases of skin cancer. But it causes the most deaths.

Melanoma is generally caused by sunlight or tanning booths. The ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds damage the genes in certain skin cells. This causes cancer to form.

Older age

The study looked at health records of patients at the Shinshu University Hospital in Japan. The records spanned 24 years. During that time 123 people were diagnosed with melanoma on the soles of their feet. The average age of the patients was about 73 years.

Why the melanoma showed up on the soles of the feet puzzled the researchers. That area of the body usually gets little sun exposure.

The Japanese researchers proposed that the stress of walking or running made the melanoma more likely to develop on the soles. But American cancer experts disagreed. Stress and inflammation do not cause melanoma elsewhere in the body, they said.

Instead, stress and inflammation are more likely to cause squamous cell skin cancer.

Check your soles

No matter the cause of the melanoma, both sets of experts agreed that a skin check should always include the soles of the feet. Look for the same signs of melanoma there as in other parts of the body.

Look for moles or spots on the skin that:

  • Are of uneven shape

  • Have irregular or ragged borders

  • Have different shades of color

  • Are bigger than one-quarter inch (6 millimeters) across

  • Are changing in size, shape or color

On the soles, look for areas that have no color. Also look for sores or wounds that do not heal.

 

Find out more about preventing skin cancer.

 

Online resources

American Academy of Dermatology

American Cancer Society