Its that time of the year when those who worship the sun (you know who you are) are out in full force soaking up the rays. A snow bird is someone who goes south to get closer to the sun. Those that can’t get enough go even further toward the equator for vacations. All in an attempt to escape the cold. Little do they know the more they expose their skin to UV rays the more likely they can develop malignant melanoma.
Whenever you notice any suspicious lesion/spots/growths on your feet (or anywhere else on your body, really), you should see a medical care provider right away. Your podiatrist (or other doctor) will ask you about the spot, such as how long you’ve had it, whether it’s changed in size, shape or color, and how quickly it has undergone these changes. The best way to tell if a spot is a malignant melanoma is to perform a biopsy (or remove a portion of or the entire spot) and send the tissue to a lab for analysis.
Treating malignant melanomas, as in many cancers, often involves surgery to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy or irradiation if necessary. Your doctor can discuss a full treatment plan with you.
Please keep in mind, though, that early detection of malignant melanomas is critical. When this cancer is treated in its early stages, survival rate is about 95%. However, the longer the melanoma goes untreated, the higher the fatality rate gets. Again, it’s always best to see your doctor right away when you notice an unusual mole or spot on your skin or under your toenail.
You can try to keep malignant melanomas from developing in your skin by doing the following 5 things:
- Keep the skin of your feet covered when you go outside. Sandals and flip-flops are hardly your best defense against wicked UV rays. When you plan on going into the water, wear water shoes. Otherwise, keep on regular socks and shoes when you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors.
- Avoid being out in the sun when the sun’s rays are most direct (usually about 10am to 4pm), and take special care of children and adolescents, who are more susceptible to harmful radiation.
- Sunscreen is a great way to block harmful UV rays. Be sure to apply it to your feet if they’ll be exposed, and don’t forget to slather the soles of your feet as well as the tops.
- Be sure to check your feet (and other skin) regularly for signs of discoloration or atypical moles. If you’re into colorful nail polish, take it off once in a while to check for streaks or patches of color beneath your nails.
- Also, even though feet are the main topic of discussion here, it really will help if you also wear UV-blocking sunglasses, as well as wide-brimmed hats to protect your eyes and neck.
There’s no real reason why you can’t love the sun. Just be aware that the sun doesn’t always love too well in return. Protect yourself from its more malicious attentions, and keep checking your ever-precious skin.