Skin Cancer: What you should be looking for

Clare Rushmer

May marks Skin Cancer Awareness Month – probably as we hope the sun starts to shine more! In this blog we will share more information on skin cancer and what you should be looking out for.

Skin cancer is an amazingly common thing, approximately 1 in 2 people will develop a basal cell carcinoma. Luckily these are very easy to deal with, and as long as they are not on the face, unlikely to cause any serious complications or further spread. 

But what about the more serious types? There are a few very rare skin cancers, but the most common dangerous one is melanoma. This is a cancer which develops from the pigment producing cells, the melanocytes. These can develop almost anywhere, including the sole of your foot and under the nails.


Melanomas are extremely rare in children before puberty, but are one of the most common forms of cancer in the 15-34 age range. However the risk of melanoma increases with age, only 30% of all melanomas occur in those under the age of 50. 

Risk factors include having already had a melanoma, having a family member with melanoma, having a high number of moles, being blonde, red-haired or having freckles, and being an organ transplant recipient (due to the antirejection drugs). Having lots of UV exposure from sunbeds or the sun is a risk, however the link is complex, as those which develop on the soles of the feet have no association with sun exposure. 

Most melanoma occur new, ie; not from pre-existing moles. If you are over 30 and develop a ‘new mole’, it is best to get this checked out. However because 20% will develop from current moles, keeping an eye on your moles for change is useful.

Be aware of the following features:-
  • Asymmetry or irregular border 
  • Two or more colours, eg black, brown, and red 
  • Comparison – does it look the same as your other moles? 
  • Has the size been changing? If it has been persistently growing for a month, get it checked. Be aware that moles are expected to grow larger in children, this is normal. 
  • Has it become elevated/nodular? If so, is it soft and squidgy, or firm? Soft is safe 

Melanoma developing in toenails usually looks like brown longitudinal strips. There are a number of safe strips that develop, eg melanonychia – which is a normal presentation in skin of colour, a bleed due to damage, or pigment due to drug side effects. If you have only one nail affected, this is more worrisome and you should get it checked out by your podiatrist.  

Confusingly, there are also melanomas which develop without the normal pigment. These can often look pink or red, can feel different to the surrounding skin, but have few other features. If you develop anything which looks like this, which can crust and bleed, get it checked out.

What Can you do?

What can you do? Our podiatrist Clare Rushmer has trained to use a dermatoscope. This is a specialised magnification tool which uses polarised light to look through the layers of the skin. This is able to pick up certain features of the lesion on your skin which the naked eye or magnifying glass would miss, to tell us whether it is safe, or whether there are any features consistent with a melanoma. If these features were discovered, we would refer you to your GP for a final check, and if they confirmed they were concerned, you would be referred to a dermatologist within 2 weeks. 

You are able to book a half hour check up with her, for any areas on the body, hands and feet. Please be aware this excludes specialised areas such as mucous membranes (mouth, genitals) or the face. 

Contact us today to arrange an appointment with Clare or speak to a member of our team for more information. 

With thanks to the PCDS website

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