Malignant Melanoma of the Foot
Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells of the skin that produce
pigmentation (coloration). It is also called malignant melanoma because it
spreads to other areas of the body as it grows beneath the surface of the skin.
Unlike many other types of cancer, melanoma strikes people of all age groups,
even the young.
in the Foot
Melanoma that occurs in the foot or ankle often goes unnoticed during its
earliest stage, when it would be more easily treated. By the time melanoma of
the foot or ankle is diagnosed, it frequently has progressed to an advanced
stage, accounting for a higher mortality rate. This makes it extremely
important to follow prevention and early detection measures involving the feet
as well as other parts of the body.
Most cases of melanoma are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV)
rays from the sun or tanning beds. This exposure can include intense UV
radiation obtained during short periods, or lower amounts of radiation obtained
over longer periods.
Anyone can get melanoma, but some factors put a person at
greater risk for developing this type of cancer. These include:
Should You Look For?
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, even in areas of the body not exposed
to the sun. Melanoma usually looks like a spot on the skin that is
predominantly brown, black, or blue—although in some cases it can be mostly red
or even white. However, not all areas of discoloration on the skin are
There are four signs—known as the ABCDs of melanoma—to look
for when self-inspecting moles and other spots on the body:
Asymmetry — Melanoma is usually
asymmetric, which means one half is different in shape from the other half.
Border — Border irregularity often indicates melanoma. The
border—or edge—is typically ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color — Melanoma is typically a mix of colors or hues, rather
than a single, solid color.
Diameter — Melanoma grows in
diameter, whereas moles remain small. A spot that is larger than 5 millimeters
(the size of a pencil eraser) is cause for concern.
If any of these signs are present on the foot, it is
important to see a foot and ankle surgeon right away. It is also essential to
see a surgeon if there is discoloration of any size underneath a toenail
(unless the discoloration was caused by trauma, such as stubbing a toe or
having something fall on it).
To diagnose melanoma, the foot and ankle surgeon will ask the patient a few
questions. For example: Is the spot old or new? Have you noticed any changes in
size or color? If so, how rapidly has this change occurred?
The surgeon will also examine the spot to determine whether
a biopsy is necessary. If a biopsy is performed and it reveals melanoma, the
surgeon will discuss a treatment plan.
and Early Detection
Everyone should practice strategies that can help prevent
melanoma—or at least aid in early detection, so that early treatment can be
Precautions to avoid getting melanoma of the foot and ankle,
as well as general precautions, include:
Remember: Early detection is crucial with malignant
melanoma. If you see any of the ABCD signs—or if you have discoloration beneath
a toenail that is unrelated to trauma—be sure to visit a foot and ankle surgeon
as soon as possible.
Information provided by The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
22-52 33rd Street
Astoria, NY 11105
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Tuesday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
Wednesday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
Thursday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
Friday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 2:00pm
Sunday: Emergency Only