The members of the American College Foot and Ankle Surgeons warn that melanoma is the most common malignancy on the foot or ankle and more likely to be misdiagnosed than melanoma on any other part of the body. A study published in The Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery reported the overall survival rate for melanoma of the foot or ankle is just 52 percent, in sharp contrast to the 85 percent survival rate for patients with melanomas on other areas of the body.
Even though Americans are more diligent than ever in protecting their bodies from the growing threat of malignant melanoma, they are overlooking the most misdiagnosed and fatal site of the disease—their feet.
What to Look for
Melanomas can be found anywhere on the foot or ankle—even under a toenail—and most often appear as abnormal-looking moles or small areas of pigmented skin. A nonpainful spot on the foot, especially the sole, often is not noticed until advanced stages when a tumor is thicker and more likely to metastasize. Any change in an existing mole or pigmented skin abrasion on the foot should be evaluated by a foot and ankle surgeon right away.
Risk factors may be similar to other skin cancers, such as excessive unprotected time in the sun, family history, numerous moles on the body and having fair skin, blue eyes or red hair. However, populations normally at low risk for skin cancer, such as African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, can develop melanomas on their feet.
To guard against foot melanoma, use sunscreen on the top and bottom of the feet and limit sun exposure.
Early Detection Is Key
If you find abnormal moles or areas of pigmented skin, schedule a visit with a foot and ankle surgeon right away. Early detection and treatment could save your life.