It’s officially Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and a good time to be reminded that skin cancer – especially melanoma, can strike where you least expect it to.
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Moles that have appeared at random, changed in appearance, or grown larger are relatively noticeable – and should definitely be checked out by a doctor or specialist. Melanoma however – is a little tricky to spot.
Melanoma – the deadliest of all skin cancers kills 8,790 United States citizens each year. Although, if caught early on – the survival rate is high, it’s dangerous due to the fact that it’s difficult to spot. Melanoma has been known to form on the bottoms of feet, under fingernails, and even in the eye. This being said – it can develop in areas that not even doctors sometimes know to check.
Here’s what to look for:
A Lump or Unusual Spot
15% of diagnosed melanoma cases are known as nodular melanoma. These can occur anywhere on the body, and don’t have to arise from pre-existing moles. These types of melanoma are dangerous because of their ability to grow into the skin much faster than they grow in width. – Making them easy to miss until they’ve spread. – These appear as black, red, or flesh-colored lumps which are typically firm and dome-shaped. Nodular melanoma can also appear as a dark or light colored patch of skin that doesn’t look like the skin that surrounds it.
Lentigo maligns melanoma – often referred to as “age spots” is a flat area on the skin which is gray-brown or black, and can be found on the face, arms, shoulders, and hands. If the spot grows, changes shape, has irregular boarders, or begins to develop an irregular appearance, you’re going to want to get it checked out.
Melanoma is tricky in that it can even develop where the sun doesn’t shine. Any sort of itching or bleeding in the genetal/rectal areas which seem to be abnormal – especially if they appear as moles, are something you’re going to want to get checked out.
Underneath Your Nails
Melanoma underneath the nails is more common in individuals with darker skin tones, and will appear under fingernails, toenails, on the palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. Known as acral lentiginous melanoma – this variety can also be found in the nose and mouth. It can appear as a black streak which grows over time, or can be noticed due to persistent nasal congestion – or nosebleeds.
Check Your Scalp
Since the scalp is so difficult to see due to hair growth – melanoma in the cranial area is tough to spot. These types of melanoma can be spotted due to asymmetry, broader irregularities, color change, shape-shifting/growth, bleeding, or itching/irritation. Take a little time every month or so to examine your scalp, and keep an eye out for any sort of marking – if it’s too difficult, ask a family or hairdresser to help you.
Changes In Eyesight
Ocular melanoma – a rare eye cancer, appears as an itchy/scratchy sensation underneath the eyelid, and can also be exposed with changes in vision or loss of peripheral vision. Regular eye exams are the best way to protect yourself from ocular melanoma.