The Doctor is in …
By Dr. Katie Rodan
Last week, a patient came to see me, worried about a new mole she discovered on the bottom of her foot. After a careful examination, including a biopsy, I was able to give her good news that the mole was benign and not the cancerous melanoma she feared it was. Nonetheless, she was wise to check it out. Skin cancers on the feet, particularly on the soles, between the toes and under the nails often go undetected until it is too late. And there is no reason for this because skin cancer, especially the potentially deadly melanoma, is treatable, if discovered early. Therefore, getting to know what your moles look like and being aware of any change or new growth can be life-saving.
Although the bottoms of your feet are one of the last places most people think to look for moles, try making it the first place you check. As I tell my patients, “start with your toes, work your way up to your nose,” checking every square inch of your skin including your scalp. People assume that because the soles of their feet are not sun-exposed, melanoma is unlikely to form there. It is true that the most common forms of skin cancer –basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma– have a direct relationship to sun exposure. However, melanoma is different. It is commonly found in the sun protected areas of the skin, i.e. the buttocks, feet, scalp and back. The reasons are unknown but are correlated with a history of severe sunburn as a child or teenager. It is believed that intense sun exposure during a critical time in the development of a person’s immune system may predispose one to this increased risk.
Here’s a tip: While you are having your daily stretch, get up close and personal with your feet. Sit with your heels together and lift up each foot as you check for moles or dark spots … especially those of you with a darker skin type which can make moles harder to spot. Remember, you’re looking for the ABCDEs of melanoma—any spots that are asymmetrical, have an irregular border, are variable in color, have a diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser, or evolve/change over time. If you see anything suspicious, make an appointment with your dermatologist. The life you save may be your own … or the dermatologist may give you the great news that all of your moles are benign, as I did with my patient.