Dark spots on feet could be a warning sign of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. But not all such spots indicate foot melanoma. This cancer type can appear on any spot on your foot. This includes your sole and even under any of your toenails. The origin of this cancer type is in your melanocyte.
They are pigment cells that are often found in your skin’s uppermost layer. They produce the dark pigment, melanin. Melanin is your body’s natural sunscreen. They screen your body against UV light’s harmful effects. But when sunlight exposure is excessive, it may trigger cancer development in the melanin-producing cells.
It is quite easy to treat foot in its early stages. But the problem is that most people won’t be diagnosed until it has reached its advanced stages. This is because symptoms are not easily noticeable early on. Unfortunately, in advanced stages, foot melanoma would have spread or metastasized. At that stage, the condition would have become life-threatening.
The metastasis would have reached your lymph nodes. This is very dangerous. The cancer cells may reach other body cells or even your internal organs. As you read on, we will tell you about foot melanoma, as well as how you can recognize them. We will also talk about how to diagnose and treat this skin cancer type.
Are Dark Spots on Feet Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?
The right question to ask, perhaps, is what kinds of dark spots on your feet are warning signs for cancer? There is an acronym you should remember when examining for melanoma generally. This acronym is simple – ABCDE:
A for Asymmetry
Dark spots in your feet might indicate cancer is one half is way different from the other. This means that when you divide the spot in half, its 2 sides won’t match.
B for Border
This means that spots that have an uneven, irregular, ragged, or scalloped border may indicate cancer. So when you notice any dark spot whose border is poorly defined, you may begin to suspect cancer.
C for Color
Dark spots that have varying colors may indicate cancer. That is, the color of an area seems to be different from the next. It may look like tan shades, black or brown, or have white, blue, or red areas.
If your spot has two or more colors, beware. And if the colors are unevenly distributed, you may start suspecting too.
D for Diameter
Melanomas usually have a diameter greater than 6mm. If you want a picture of how big 6mm is, it’s about a pencil eraser’s size. Note, however, that melanomas might be smaller than 6mm at diagnosis. But they can grow bigger.
E for Evolving
An evolving spot is one that keeps changing. The size would typically grow larger. The color or shape might evolve (or change) too.
Other Warning Signs of Foot Melanoma
If the dark spot on your foot indicates cancer, it would typically appear under your toenail or on your sole. However, it can also appear on any other spot on your ankle or foot.
In 2010, experts released guidelines on how you can recognize foot melanoma. The guidelines follow the acronym, CUBED. What does this acronym stand for?
C for Colored – The color lesion varies from your other skin areas.
U for Uncertain – The lesion as no exact or definite diagnosis.
B for Bleeding – If the lesion on your foot leaks fluid or bleeds.
E for Enlargement – The ulcer or lesion worsens or grows larger, regardless of treatment attempts.
D for Delay – The lesion is not healing up even after 2 months.
Meanwhile, don’t think that UV from sunlight is the only reason why you may have foot melanoma. Most cases of melanoma come from UV exposure. This could be from sunlight exposure or artificial sources.
When it comes to foot melanoma, regular, intense sunlight exposure may pose a great risk. But there are many other risk factors. These include genetic changes. Other factors that may pose a risk include the following:
- Existing moles
- Pale skin
- Light hair
And since genetics are involved, find out if there is a family history of certain conditions, such as melanoma, pigmentosum, and xeroderma. More so, if you have a personal history of any of those conditions, you may have a higher risk too.
Melanoma rarely occurs before puberty. You will find them mostly in older adults. However, women have a higher risk before 50. But men have a higher risk after 50.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It might be quite difficult to discover foot melanoma. But if you visit the hospital with complaints about dark spots on your foot, your physician will evaluate and examine the spot. They will also ask about your personal and family history to see if there are any cases of melanoma or other skin cancer types.
The physician will also be interested in knowing:
- When you first noticed the dark spot
- If there are any changes in the appearance and size of the dark spot
- Additional symptoms and signs, including itching, bleeding, or pain
- If there’s any other mole that looks suspicious
In case the doctor suspects melanoma, he or she will examine the surrounding lymph nodes. This is to ensure that the melanoma has not metastasized (or spread). And with such a suspicion, the doctor would refer you to a specialist dermatologist. Dermatologists are specialist doctors for skin-related conditions, including cancers.
Dermatologists make use of dermatoscopy to closely examine dark spots. They will also perform biopsy tests on the spot if they suspect cancer. There are also a couple of further studies they may carry out, including surgical lymph node evaluation.
Sometimes, melanoma lesions disappear by themselves from the feet. But this is very dangerous. The cells might travel through your body and lead to cancer development elsewhere.
When it comes to the treatment of foot melanoma, it all depends on the stage. Stages zero and one of foot cancer is the easiest to treat. There are higher chances that the treatment would be successful. All that is required is a simple surgery.
As the cancer advances, it becomes more difficult to treat. By the time foot cancer has reached stage four, it becomes almost impossible to cure. At that stage, the cancer cells have gotten to distant systems and organs. You may need a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy to treat it at this stage.
If you have dark spots on feet, don’t immediately conclude that it’s cancerous. But watch out for the signs we have shared in this article. More importantly, visit the hospital once yearly for routine checks of all known moles (or dark spots) on your body. That way, you can quickly detect any cancerous changes.