The feet and legs are one of the most overlooked areas in relation to skin cancers. The most common areas are between the toes, on the soles of the foot and around the nails.
Skin Cancers of the feet and legs are related to not only sun exposure, but, also caused from viruses, exposure to chemicals, chronic irritation or inheritance.
The feet and legs are commonly exposed during the spring and summer months and most commonly forgotten when we consider sunscreen application. Unfortunately, the most common skin cancers of the feet are malignant melanomas which have the potential of losing your limb or your life.
The most common finding is the change of appearance in a mole, such as irregular shape or margin, color changes, increase in size, bleeding or ulceration. Any lesion in question should be monitored and biopsied. This can be done during a routine foot evaluation and screening. Unfortunately, some lesions that appear benign are cancerous thus, early screening and biopsy is essential to ensure that these potentially malignant lesions are not missed.
The most common skin cancers of the feet and legs include the following:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma- common on the top of the foot or front of the legs where there is sun exposure. These are the least aggressive, appear as pearly white bumps or patches that may ooze or crust and may look like an open sore. Easily treated by excising.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma- this is the most common lesion of the foot that appears as a scaly bump or plaque, can be mistaken as a callous with recurrent cracking or bleeding. It is usually painless and may itch. It can also be mistaken as a plantar wart, a fungal infection, eczema or ulceration.
- Malignant Melanoma- one of the deadliest skin cancers known. It is known as "The Green Masquerader." Commonly it is brown and black in color but roughly one third are pink or red and do not have brown pigmentation. These may resemble moles, but upon close inspection have asymmetry, irregular borders and alterations in color. Nonsurgical treatments are rarely effective and must be detected early to ensure patient survival. Melanomas may resemble benign moles, blood blisters, ingrown nails, plantar warts, ulcers caused by poor circulation, foreign bodies or bruises.
Skin Cancers in the lower extremities have a different appearance from those arising on the rest of the body. Podiatrists are lower extremity specialists that can recognize and treat abnormal skin conditions of the legs and feet.
If a lesion is identified that may need further evaluation, a biopsy will be performed and evaluated. If the lesion is then determined malignant, your podiatrist will recommend the best course of treatment.
For prevention, protect your feet and legs with appropriate shoe wear and sunscreens and present to your podiatrist if you have any questionable changing moles, lesions, ulcerations, and calluses for early evaluation and treatment.
If you are interested in more information on skin cancer or are concerned you may have skin cancer on your feet contact your local Podiatrists at Cumberland Foot & Ankle Centers. 606-679-2773 or toll free 1-800-600-6740. We have ten locations near you: Somerset, Barbourville, Danville, London, Monticello, Corbin, Russell Springs, Stanford, Williamsburg, and Whitley City. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed and watch for contests and prizes.
By: Dr. Pamela Jensen-Stanley
Article can also be found in the February issue of the Southern Kentucky Health & Family Journal.