Melanoma is the deadliest and most preventable skin disease. It is a skin cancer arising from melanocytes, skin cells that carry pigment also know as melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanocytes are the cells that also form benign (non-cancerous) moles known as nevi. The distinction between harmless moles and potentially deadly melanoma can be challenging even for the most experienced dermatologists.
Although skin cancer has a lower incidence in patients of color, it can occur. The most common type of skin cancer varies based on your ethnic background, with African Americans being most at risk for squamous cell carcinoma. However while melanoma is often associated with people who have blue eyes and blonde hair, it also occurs in people with darker skin tones.
For reasons that are unclear, melanomas in African Americans most commonly develop on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and nails. Unfortunately, when these melanomas are discovered they are more aggressive at the time of presentation. The overall five-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 77 percent, versus 91 percent for Caucasians. Read more
I recently got a call from a man in Arizona who found my name on the internet while he was researching some skin cancer facts. He had seen that I had a particular clinical interest in the early diagnosis of melanoma on the lower extremity, and the foot in particular.
He asked me if when he goes to his dermatologist, should he have his feet looked at. It is interesting that many people do not consider the foot as a place that skin cancer, or for that matter, any kind of cancer can occur. Nothing could be further from the truth.