Foot melanoma: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Foot melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects the feet. It can appear anywhere on the foot, including the sole or under a nail. It starts in a type of skin cell called a melanocyte.

These cells are located in the uppermost layer of the skin. They are responsible for producing melanin, a dark pigment that helps screen the body against the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.

Foot melanoma is often treatable in the early stages, but it is often diagnosed late because people do not notice it. If it spreads, it can be life-threatening.

Fast facts about foot melanoma

Foot melanoma is a rare but serious form of skin cancer.

It constitutes 1 percent of skin cancers but more cancer deaths than any other type of skin cancer.

Between 3 and 15 percent of melanomas occur on the foot.

The first symptom in most cases of foot melanoma is a changing or unusual mole.

Check symptoms with the acronym CUBED. Is it Colored, Uncertain, Bleeding, Enlarged, or is there Delay in the healing of lesions?

What is foot melanoma?

Melanoma skin cancer
Foot melanoma can appear on the sole or under a nail, and is often not detected until an advanced stage of the cancer.

Foot melanoma is a type of cancer that affects the skin cells in the foot. In cancer, cells grow too fast and do not die off as healthy cells do.

Melanoma is not the only type of skin cancer. It accounts for only 1 percent of skin cancers, yet it accounts for the highest number of deaths from skin cancer. Between 3 and 15 percent of melanomas occur on the foot.


Various types of melanoma can appear on the foot and under the toenails.

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM): Around half of the cases of melanoma that appear on the feet are of this type. ALM grows equally all skin types, but it appears more often on darker skin. In the early stages, it can be hard to see, presenting as a light patch of discoloration of the skin.

Nodular melanoma (NM): This is a pigmented, or colored, lesion that appears to have
small nodules when viewed with the naked eye. NM is the type most likely to affect older patients.

Superficial spreading melanoma (SSM): SSM is the most common melanoma. It grows outwards across the skin, rather than inwards towards the body’s organs and systems. It most often occurs on the upper surface of the foot.

Amelanotic melanoma: These have no color and may be flesh-like in appearance. As a result, they are often misdiagnosed as more benign conditions, such as ulcers.

Different types of melanomas can have similar characteristics. The exact type may only be confirmed under a microscope or through laboratory testing.

What you should know about melanomaWhat you should know about melanoma
Is one of your moles changing somewhere other than your foot? Click here to find out about all melanomas.
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Causes and risk factors

Ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from the sun or an artificial source such as a tanning bed, is a major cause of skin cancer. UV rays damage the DNA in skin cells, which affects how they grow and divide.

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