The summer heat is in full swing. As we are spending more time on the beach and by the pool, most of us are taking a proactive approach in protecting ourselves against diseases such as melanoma. We all know that wearing hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are helpful in minimizing UV exposure from the sun’s harmful rays.
However, despite our knowledge, one area of the body is still sometimes overlooked. You guessed it, our lower extremities and feet! Similarly, when melanoma occurs in these areas, it often goes undetected.
Malignant melanoma, while it is not the most common of skin cancers, it can be the most deadly. Melanoma of the foot is of even greater concern because it may go undetected in its early stages. Frequently, by time it is diagnosed, it may have already advanced and metastasized to other parts of the body. Mortality rate of melanoma of the foot is much higher than elsewhere in the body. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), half of all people diagnosed with melanoma of the foot will die within five years because of late diagnosis. If melanoma is detected early enough, it is almost always curable. Therefore understanding how to prevent and detect are invaluable.
More than half, 65% of melanoma is caused by harmful UV rays. Therefore we need to Protect, protect, protect!
Here are some basic beach reminders:
Use adequate broad spectrum sunscreen (remember to check the new sunscreen guidelines) that protects from UVA and UVB radiation at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply every few hours even if it states that it is waterproof. Do not neglect the tops of the feet, toes, around toenails, and non-sun exposed areas like the soles.
Try wearing water shoes over flip-flops. They are comfortable and provide more protection. Rubber clogs are another alternative.
Stay in the shade. During peak sun hours, keep yourself and those feet under the umbrella! Use extra caution near the water. Reflective properties from water and sand can increase sun damage.
Avoid tanning beds. There is an increase chance of developing melanoma from artificial UV radiation as well as natural exposure. Keep in mind that getting a “base tan” before going on vacation will not protect you; It will increase your chances of developing melanoma.
Using the above measures will help decrease some risk. Although everyone is susceptible, risks are higher in individuals with lighter skin, those having a history or family history of melanoma, and those with links to certain genetic factors. Darker skinned individuals are more at risk in the nails and soles of the feet. In the next blog, we will discuss early detection and warning signs for skin changes. Take precaution and stay tuned for part two!
The content provided on this blog by Dr. Pruthi is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional health-care provider.