We often consider the sun's harmful rays to be the main cause of skin cancer, particularly because it is often found on parts of the body that receive the most sun exposure. While this might be true of some cancers on your body, this does not necessarily hold true for those that arise on the skin of the feet.
Skin cancers on feet are more often related to chronic inflammation or irritation, viruses, exposure to chemicals, or inherited traits. Unfortunately, feet are frequently overlooked during routine medical examinations, and for this reason, it's important that the feet are checked often for abnormalities that could be indicative of evolving cancer.
Common Types of Cancers on the Feet
Skin cancers on the feet have several common features. Most are painless, and often there is a history of recurrent ulceration, cracking, or bleeding. Frequently individuals discover the suspicious spot after unrelated ailments near an affected site. Some of the most common cancers of the lower extremity are:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma normally is seen on sun-exposed skin surfaces. This form is one of the least aggressive cancers. It will cause damage, but only rarely will it spread beyond the skin. Basal cell can appear as pearly bumps or patches (which may ooze or crust like an open sore). On the skin of the lower legs and feet, basal cell cancers often resemble non-cancerous skin tumors or benign ulcers.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Most types of early squamous cell carcinoma are confined to the skin and do not spread. However, when advanced, some become aggressive and spread throughout the body. This form of cancer frequently starts as a small scaly bump and may appear inflamed. Sometimes there is a history of recurrent bleeding and/or cracking. Sometimes they start out as a hard projecting, callus-like lesion. Though squamous cell cancer is painless, it can be itchy. It may also resemble eczema, an ulcer, a plantar wart, a fungal infection, or other common dermatological conditions of the foot.
This form is one of the deadliest skin cancers known. It may occur on the skin of the feet—both on the soles and on the tops—and on occasion beneath a toenail. As a melanoma grows and extends deeper into the skin, it becomes more serious and may spread through the body through blood vessels.
This form of cancer commonly begins as a small brown-black spot or bump; however, roughly one-third of cases will lack brown pigment and thus appear pink or red. These tumors may resemble common moles; however, close inspection will usually demonstrate asymmetry, irregular borders, alterations in color, and/or a diameter of greater than 6mm. Melanomas may resemble benign moles, blood blisters, ingrown nails, plantar warts, ulcers caused by poor circulation, foreign bodies, or bruises.
Our Role in the Detection and Management of Skin Disease
Podiatrists are uniquely trained as lower extremity specialists to recognize and treat abnormal conditions as they appear on the skin of the lower legs and feet. Skin cancers in the lower extremity may have a very different appearance from those on the rest of the body. For this reason, a podiatrist's knowledge and clinical training are of extreme importance for patients with regard to early detection of both benign and malignant skin tumors.
Learn the ABCDs of Melanoma
Here are some common attributes of cancerous lesions:
- Asymmetry - If divided in half, the sides don't match.
- Borders - They look scalloped, uneven, or ragged.
- Color - They may have more than one color, which can appear in uneven distribution.
- Diameter - They can appear wider than a pencil eraser (greater than 5mm).
Skin Cancer of the Feet Diagnosis
The doctors here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists will help you in determining whether or not a suspicious spot or skin abnormality is actually a case of cancer. In the event it is, we will help you find the care and treatment that you need. Contact our Austin, TX office today for more information or to schedule an appointment. Simply call (512) 328-8900 or take advantage of our online form to connect with us.