‘Tis the season for sandals, flip-flops and barefoot walks along the shore—and paying closer attention to our feet. After a long winter bundled up, you may feel tempted to treat your feet to a spa pedicure, or, perhaps you’ve already taken a pumice stone to them at home. Aside from beautification, now is also a good time to check the overall health of your feet.
“It’s really important to look at your feet,” says Holly Hanson, MD, from Associated Skin Care Specialists in Maple Grove. “It’s an area people often neglect, so it’s really important to look at the bottoms of your feet periodically and in between your toes.”
Aside from patients’ blisters, calluses and warts that Hanson frequently encounters over the summer, skin cancer is another condition that she encounters on feet, and it’s one that many people don’t pay enough attention to in terms of their own health.
Hanson recommends checking for new moles or moles that have recently changed in shape, size or color. “What you should look for when you’re looking at your skin is any dark moles that are bigger than the size of a pencil eraser or any moles that have black dots in them,” she says. “Any moles that have weird colors in them like gray or blue.” These, she says, are indicative of melanoma.
Melanoma is a skin cancer of the pigment-producing cells of the skin, Hanson explains. “With the sun-induced skin cancers, the most common locations are on the areas of the feet that are typically most exposed to sun, which is the top of the foot,” she says. This doesn’t mean the rest of your foot is immune. “We also see skin cancer on the sole of the foot, even without sun exposure.”
The other two types of skin cancers that are most likely to develop on your feet are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. “Those are typically from lifetime sun exposure on your skin, triggering an abnormality in the DNA that creates a skin cancer,” Hanson says.
Possible indicators of carcinoma are pimple-like marks on the skin that don’t heal or scabby spots that bleed on their own. Regardless of their presentation, one of the treatments for all three cancers is surgical removal, so it’s always better to keep prevention at the forefront of your skin routine when applying sunscreen.
In general, dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen of 50 SPF or higher. “My favorite sunscreens are the physical blockers or the kind that contain physical blocking agents like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide rather than the chemical blockers,” Hanson says.