Do I Really Need Sunscreen on my Feet?
by: Dr. Stephen Benson, DPM, FACFAS
Most Americans have recently become much more aware of the risk of skin cancer in their everyday lives, and have increased their use of sunscreen as a result. Feet, however, often get overlooked despite this development. People don’t often realize that skin cancer can occur on the feet from unprotected sun exposure, and they do not bother applying sunscreen. It is important to remember that skin cancer of the foot is prevalent and can be fatal if not caught early. While all types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, can be found on the foot, the most common is also the most serious form, melanoma. Melanoma symptoms can be as subtle as an abnormal looking mole or freckle, and these can occur anywhere on the foot, including in between the toes and even under the toenail. These often go unnoticed without routine foot exams.
Early diagnosis is the key to effective treatment for any skin cancer. Many people, however, are not looking for the early stage warning signs, or taking the same precautions they do to prevent melanoma for other areas of their body. Unfortunately, often times, skin cancer in this region is not diagnosed until the later stages. I have seen cases where skin cancer on the foot has progressed to severe stages, and it was caught in a routine exam, not even a result of the patient noticing an abnormality. Often times the surgery required to remove the cancer becomes more difficult as time goes on, due to the progression and potential spreading of the illness. There have been patients in my care where all I needed to do was remove the “bad” skin and they were fine, but there have also been cases where the patient needed to have a part of their toe, their whole foot, or in the most extreme cases their leg removed in order to fully treat the cancer.
I advise my patients to regularly inspect their feet, including the soles, in between toes, and even under the toenails for any changing moles or spots. It is important to have any suspicious areas promptly examined by a foot and ankle specialist, as they can confirm it being suspect, and have it biopsied for signs of malignancy. This is easily done as an in office procedure at our practice, or other practices. While this article might seem a bit grim, there are simple measures that everyone can take to prevent any of this happening, and provided you put in the little bit of extra effort you will be just fine. Please remember to apply suncreen whenever your feet will be exposed to the sun for a prolonged period of time. This not only includes the beach and pool, but also when outdoors for any reason with open sandals or flip-flops.
If you would like a foot exam to determine if a mole or spot is suspect, please feel free to make an appointment at either of our offices to come in and see one of our doctors. Our contact information is here, Contact Page.
Stephen Benson, DPM, FACFAS