Melanoma can affect anyone, but some risk factors include:
- Fair skin.
- Skin that freckles.
- Blond or red hair.
- Sunburns that cause blisters before age 18.
- Multiple moles, especially if developed at a young age.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, even if not exposed to the sun. This condition normally resembles a spot on the skin that most often appears as brown, black or blue. In some instances, the skin spot can be mostly red or white. Not all areas of skin discoloration are melanoma.
Four signs patients should look for when checking for moles and other skin spots can be remembered as the ABCDs of melanoma:
Asymmetry. Melanoma is often asymmetric, meaning one half is shaped differently than the other half.
Border irregularity. The border, or edge is usually ragged, notched or blurred, indicating melanoma.
Color. Melanoma most often consists of a color combination instead of a single, solid color.
Diameter. The diameter of melanoma enlarges, but moles remain small. Patients should seek care for a spot larger than 5 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser).
Consult Dr. Radovic immediately if any of these signs are present on the foot. Discoloration of any size beneath the toenail is also cause for concern, unless the discoloration was caused by trauma, for example jamming a toe or dropping something on it.
Dr. Radovic will ask the patient a series of questions to diagnose melanoma. Some questions include: How recently did the spot deveop? Have there been any noticeable changes in size or color? If so, how rapidly have these changes occurred?
The spot will then be examined by Dr. Radovic to determine if a biopsy is needed. If the spot is biopsied and reveals melanoma, Dr. Radovic will discuss a treatment plan.
People of all age groups should practice prevention strategies that help in early detection or prevention of melanoma, to initiate an early treatment plan.
General precautions, and precautions to prevent melanoma of the foot and ankle include:
Wear water shoes or shoes and socks. Sandals do not provide skin protection.
Apply sunblock generously to areas not covered by clothing or shoes. Make sure to use sunblock on the soles and the tops of feet.
Visually inspect all parts of the feet everyday, including the soles, beneath the toenails and between the toes.
If nail polish is worn, it should be removed on occasion to inspect the skin beneath the toenails.
Avoid sun exposure during peak hours - from 10 AM to 4 PM, beginning at birth. UV radiation is harmful at any age, but it is most damaging to children and adolescents.
Wear sunglasses that provide maximum protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
Keep in mind that early detection is the key to treating malignant melanoma. Consult Dr. Radovic immediately if you notice any of the ABCD signs, or if the skin underneath the toenails is dicolored and unrelated to trauma.