Careful Sun Lovers – You Could Be Walking on Cancer (and Flip-Flops)

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Summer officially ends Sept. 20, so we’re now at the season mid-way point and the fun rarely stops, but the doctors at Advanced Foot & Ankle Medical Center want to remind everyone about a serious issue: foot melanoma, the deadliest cancer.

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That’s right—foot cancer.  Very few people seem to know that they can get a fatal skin cancer on their feet.

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Instances of melanoma are increasing faster than any other form of cancer and, surprisingly, one of the leading places cancer is commonly being found these days is on the feet.

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Why?

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The causes of cancer are many – hereditary, environmental, etc. Cancers of the feet are often related to viruses, exposure to chemicals, chronic inflammation or irritation, or inherited traits.

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But when it comes to environmental factors, the summer sun makes our feet and ankles particularly vulnerable.

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In summertime, the normally covered foot is suddenly exposed to harsh solar rays…the beginning of trouble for the skin.

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The Naked Truth

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Your feet spend the largest part of their lives encased in shoes that shield them completely from the sun. However, once summer arrives, suddenly your feet are thrust out into full-strength sunlight.

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Just as serious sunburn suffered as a child can be the root cause of skin cancer as an adult, any intense exposure to the sun that your feet endure can also increase your risk of getting skin cancer on your feet.

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America’s favorite summer footwear – sandals, flip flops, slippers and all forms of open-toed shoes – play a key role here.  Simply put, these articles can be dangerous.

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The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has issued warnings about flip-flops, pointing out how tendinitis, stress fractures and other injuries can be attributed to this footwear.  They’ve even posted a YouTube video warning about the hazard – “Must-Know Tips to Avoid a ‘Flip-Flop Fiasco.'”  Foot cancer didn’t make the APMA list of possible dangers from flip-flops, but the shoes have been linked to skin cancer of the feet because they promote excessive exposure to the sun.

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What to Look For

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Skin cancers of the feet have several features in common.  Most are painless, and often there is a history of recurrent cracking, bleeding or ulceration in the affected area.  Frequently, individuals discover their skin cancer after dealing with unrelated ailments near the site.  It’s a good idea to check those hard-to-examine places like the soles of feet, between toes and, yes, even under toenails.

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Learn the “ABCDs” of melanoma.  If you notice a mole, bump or patch on the skin that meets any of the following criteria, see a podiatrist immediately:

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• Asymmetry – If the lesion is divided in half, the sides don’t match.

• Borders – Borders look scalloped, uneven, or ragged.

• Color – There may be more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.

• Diameter – The lesion is wider than a pencil eraser (greater than 6 mm).

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To detect other types of skin cancer, look for spontaneous ulcers and non-healing sores, bumps that crack or bleed, nodules with rolled or “donut-shaped” edges, or scaly areas.

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Prevention

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The best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet light is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to avoid sun exposure during these hours.

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Wear white socks as often as possible.

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Always use sunscreen:

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  • Apply high-quality sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) ratings of at least 15, even when you are only going outdoors for a short time. • Apply a large amount of sunscreen on all exposed areas, including ears and feet.
  • Look for sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB light.
  • Use a waterproof formula.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply it frequently, especially after swimming.
  • Use sunscreen in winter, too. Protect yourself even on cloudy days.

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Other important information to help you avoid too much sun exposure:

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  • Avoid surfaces that reflect light more, such as water, sand, concrete and white-painted areas.
  • The dangers are greater closer to the start of summer, but care must be taken throughout the length of the season.
  • Skin burns faster at higher altitudes.
  • Avoid sun lamps, tanning beds and tanning salons.

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We’re here to help you protect yourself and your loved ones.  We want your feet to have healthy and happy summer…in fact, an entire lifetime.

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