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60 Seconds to Stay Ahead of Cancer

Foot melanoma is the deadliest cancer, but routine foot self-exams can increase early detection, survival.

The next time you clip your toenails, take a closer look at the rest of your feet. An extra 60 seconds could save your life.

Elizabeth Horton, DPM, FACFAS, is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). The Kalamazoo foot and ankle surgeon says routine self-examinations of the feet are an important way to find skin cancer early, when it’s easiest to cure. Half of the people who learn they have melanoma of the foot die within five years because the cancer had already spread throughout their body by the time it was diagnosed.

Nearly 60,000 people will learn they have melanoma this year. It’s not known how many of those cases will involve the foot, but more than 8,100 melanoma patients will die… nearly one death every hour. If melanoma is detected in its earliest stages, 92 percent of patients are alive after five years.

Unlike many other types of cancer, melanoma strikes people of all age groups, even the young. Caucasian people are 10 times more likely to develop melanoma than people of African decent. But studies suggest more than half of melanoma cases in African Americans involve the foot, where late diagnosis leads to a higher death rate. Routine foot self-exams increase the likelihood of noticing suspicious moles, freckles or other spots.

Dr. Horton recommends focusing on the three most common areas for foot melanoma: the soles, between the toes, and around or under the toenails. She notes melanoma can develop anywhere on the body including areas that receive little sun exposure, such as the feet and ankles. If a mole, freckle or spot starts to change over the course of a month and becomes asymmetrical or changes its border, color, diameter or elevation, contact Dr. Horton’s office at 269-344-0874 immediately. Those are the ABCDEs, or signs, of melanoma.

For more information on malignant melanoma of the foot, visit the ACFAS patient Web site

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