According to the American Skin Cancer Foundation, 20% of Americans will be stricken with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old. To prevent the spread of skin cancer, it is important to catch it early. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reports that men are most likely to develop skin cancer on the back, shoulders, head, or neck. Meanwhile, women are most likely to find melanoma on the arms or legs. While these may be the most common areas for melanoma to appear, there are other, more unusual spots you may want to check to protect yourself against skin cancer.
11. On the Scalp
Balding men who spend a great deal of time outdoors in the blistering sun are not the only potential victims of skin cancer of the scalp. You may think your hair can protect you from the sun’s rays. However, melanoma can lurk on the scalp beneath layers of hair. Since skin cancer may not present any symptoms, ask for help with inspecting your scalp for any signs of melanoma. These include a mole with indistinct borders, asymmetrical shape, differences in color, changes in size, and a diameter larger than ¼ of an inch.
10. In the Eyes
While melanoma of the eye is uncommon, the American Cancer Society estimates 3,360 new cases of eye cancer will be diagnosed in 2019. Symptoms of eye cancer may include blurry vision, the presence of floaters in the vision, a growing dark area visible on the iris of the eye, or bulging of the eye. Protect your eyes from the rays of the sun by wearing UV-protective sunglasses. Wrap-around sunglasses that absorb 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays can protect your eyes and skin and decrease the risk of melanoma of the eyes.
9. On the Eyelids
Your eyelids protect your eyes against wind and dirt and keep them moist. When applying sunscreen, the eyelids tend to be ignored, as lotions and oils can enter and irritate the eye. However, it is important to protect your eyelids against the sun. Wear UV-protected sunglasses to protect your eyes even while you are resting or snoozing in the sun with your eyes closed. Additionally, inspect your eyelids regularly for any unusual growths or blemishes.
8. In the Ear
When performing visual skin inspections, be sure to include the area in and around your ears. While melanoma of the ear is unusual, it does occur. According to Cedars-Sinai, the first sign of basal skin carcinoma of the ear usually appears as scaly white bumps near the ear. Alternatively, a tumor within the ear canal may cause pain or result in drainage from the ear. Risk factors for this type of cancer, as well as other forms of melanoma, are fair skin and sun exposure.
7. Under the Tongue
The tongue seems a strange place for melanoma, as this body part rarely sees the light of day. However, malignant melanoma of the tongue is a rare but deadly form of skin cancer. Unlike other skin cancer that most commonly occur in persons with fair skin, those with darker skin may be more likely to develop melanoma of the tongue. Your dentist likely checks beneath your tongue for any signs of discoloration or growths during your dental examinations. Protecting your body against other forms of cancer can help prevent the risk of cancers that spread to the tongue.
6. Beneath the Fingernails
A dark brown or black line or band on the fingernail may be a sign of nail melanoma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nail melanoma is not related to sun exposure. Instead, this type of melanoma is often related to damage or trauma to the nail bed. There may also be a genetic component to this type of cancer. Inspect your nails regularly for signs of injury or discoloration. If you keep your nails polished or covered with artificial nails, be sure to take the time to inspect your nails between polish or artificial nail applications.
5. Between the Buttocks
The intergluteal cleft, or crack between your buttocks, is another area that may not get a lot of sun exposure. However, melanoma has been found lurking in this region. Nude sunbathing or exposure to tanning beds can increase the risk of melanoma in this area of the body. If you expose this area of your body to the sun, then you will want to include it in visual inspections for signs of melanoma. A hand mirror can aid in the inspection of this hard-to-reach area.
4. On the Genitals
Even if you never expose your genitals to UV rays, melanoma can spread to this area from other parts of the body. Be sure to mention to your doctor any unusual growths, moles, or discolorations of your private parts. Set aside any embarrassment and seek medical attention if you notice any unusual skin changes. Early treatment can help prevent the spread of cancer and decrease the risk of invasive and disfiguring surgery.
3. Under a Tattoo
Unfortunately, a tattoo doesn’t provide protection against the UV rays of the sun. Tattooed skin requires sunscreen just like any other areas of skin. Furthermore, the pigments of a tattoo can hide or camouflage signs of melanoma. Apply sunscreen before spending time outside, and inspect your tattoos for any sign of bumps, moles, or discoloration. Furthermore, when considering a tattoo, choose an area of your skin free from moles or birthmarks. If this is not possible, have a doctor check your moles for signs of melanoma before having your skin tattooed.
2. Between the Toes
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that skin cancers of the feet are more likely to be caused by exposure to viruses, chemicals, or irritants than by exposure to the sun. It is easy to neglect to inspect the skin between your toes when doing a visual check for melanoma. When examining the skin between your toes, check for scaly patches, bumps, discoloration, and sores. Cancers that may affect the feet include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
1. On the Bottoms of the Feet
The bottoms of the feet may also develop skin cancers associated with viruses, chemical exposure, and persistent trauma or irritation. The ABCDs of skin cancer can help you determine if a mole or discolored patch on the skin might be melanoma. The A in the ABCDs of melanoma stands for asymmetry or sides that do not match one another. B stands for borders that are ragged or uneven. C reminds you to check the color of a mole for more than one shade or irregularities in hue. D stands for a diameter that is wider than the eraser of a pencil.