Over the next several weeks, I am going to write in this blog about the prevention of foot problems that we commonly see an increase of during the summer months. There are several common foot conditions that we see year round that become somewhat more prevalent during the summer months, for various reasons. These reasons depend on the condition, and can include barefoot activity, increased activity, and specific risks of increased temperature and ultraviolet exposure.
The first topic I want to discuss is the worst of them and may take many summers to develop….. I’m of course referring to skin cancer. Despite what one may assume, skin cancer can be found on the feet, even areas under the foot where one does not expect sun exposure. There are several skin cancers that form as a result of sun exposure and mutation of the skin cells by the suns ultraviolet rays. One such cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, is not uncommon in the foot and ankle, although it is usually found elsewhere on the body. Usually, on the foot and ankle, squamous cell carcinoma is found in a contained form called squamous cell carcinoma in-situ. In this variation, it is less likely to metastasize and spread to other organs, although the risk is still there. Other forms can spread, and do form a danger to one’s life. This cancer often appears as a slowly growing reddish bump that can be scaly or crusted.
Of far more danger to the body is the appearance of melanoma. This is a tumor of pigment cells, and often appears as a dark mass or mole. There is one variation that has no pigment, and is particularly dangerous as it is hardly recognized as a cancer. Melanoma is very deadly, and spreads to other organs easily to cause death if untreated. Melanoma has a variety of different appearances, ranging from a tan or brown patch to a black bump, and all ranges in between. Any new dark spot on the foot or skin in general that has an irregular shape or borders, inconsistent colors, or appears to be growing in size or height, should be looked at by a physician. Any old mole that changes in appearance should also be looked at as well.
Because the summertime allows for more sun exposure, the possibility of damaging one’s skin with the sun’s ultraviolet light is much higher. While people today are more aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure, people often ignore their feet when protecting skin. The foot, from top to bottom, needs sun protection in the form of appropriate sunscreen or the cover of a shoe. The bottom of the foot should not be ignored, especially if one is lounging at the pool or beach, because an upright foot position will expose the sole of the foot to sunlight. While the damage may take a while to appear, skin mutation and mass growth from sun damage on the foot is not something that can be ignored, and in some cases can be deadly.