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Signs that could be melanoma on your foot

Melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, develops on skin that gets too much sun. It can also begin in places where the sun rarely shines, such as your foot. Because most people never check their feet for signs of melanoma, this cancer often spreads before it’s noticed.

Allowed to spread, melanoma can turn deadly. By checking your feet, you can find it early when it’s highly treatable. Here’s what you need to know to find melanoma on your feet.

Everyone needs to check their feet for signs of melanoma

People of all races and colors get melanoma on their feet. In fact, about the same number of African Americans and Caucasians develop melanoma on a foot.1 For people of African or Asian ethnicity, the feet and hands are the most common places for melanoma to appear.2

Everyone needs to check their feet for signs of melanoma

About the same number of African Americans and Caucasians develop melanoma on a foot.

Check every part of your feet for signs of melanoma

By thoroughly checking your feet, you can find melanoma early. The following picture shows you where to look.

Pay close attention to places on your feet that have been injured. Even if the injury was years ago, examine the area carefully.

Research has shown that a foot injury may increase your risk of developing melanoma. Bob Marley, a legendary reggae artist, developed melanoma on his foot. It’s believed that the melanoma began where he had injured his foot while playing soccer. He later died of melanoma.

Look for the signs of melanoma

When this skin cancer develops on a foot, you may see the ABCDEs of melanoma, but it’s also possible for a melanoma to have different features. Aside from looking like a changing mole, a melanoma on the foot can appear as a:

  • Brown or black vertical line under a toenail

  • Pinkish-red spot or growth

  • New spot or growth where you injured your foot

  • Rapidly growing mass on your foot, especially where you once injured your foot

  • Non-healing sore on your foot (or a sore that heals and returns)

  • Sore that looks like a diabetic ulcer

Sometimes, melanoma on the foot feels painful, bleeds, or itches, but not always. The bleeding tends to stop and start.

The following pictures show you what melanoma can look like on the foot.

Melanoma on the bottom of a toe

You can see some of the ABCDEs of melanoma. One half of this spot is unlike the other, it has an uneven border, and the color varies within the spot.

Melanoma on the bottom of a foot

Here, you can also see some of ABCDEs of melanoma, such as one half is unlike the other and it is larger than the eraser on a pencil.

Melanoma on the bottom of an African American man's foot

You can see some of the ABCDEs of melanoma, such as more than one color, uneven border, and one half is unlike the other.

Melanoma beneath a toenail

On the feet and hands, melanoma can begin as a dark vertical line (or lines as shown here) underneath a nail.

Melanoma on a callused heel

You may see melanoma that is brown, black, reddish pink, or flesh colored, and it can appear in just about any shape.

Melanoma can look like an open sore

If you have a non-healing sore on your foot, see a board-certified dermatologist to find out whether it’s a sore or a skin cancer.

A board-certified dermatologist is the skin cancer expert

If you find a spot, growth, or sore that could be a melanoma on your foot, you want to see a board-certified dermatologist. On the foot, melanoma can be mistaken for a number of things, including a wart, normal pigment beneath a toenail, callus, non-healing wound, or another skin problem.

A board-certified dermatologist has the tools needed to get a closer look at a suspicious spot on your skin. By using a dermoscope or Wood’s lamp, a dermatologist can see patterns that one cannot see with the naked eye.

By seeing a board-certified dermatologist, you can also be reassured that you are seeing the medical doctor who has received the most training and experience in diagnosing skin cancer.

If you find a suspicious spot on your foot, you can locate a dermatologist near you by going to, Find a dermatologist.

Images 1-2: Getty Images

Images 3,4,5,7,8: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • J Am Acad Dermatol.2018;78(1):179-182.e3

  • J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;55(5):741-60

  • J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(2):S34-6

Image 6: Used with permission of DermNet New Zealand

Desai A, Ugorji R, et al. “Acral melanoma foot lesions. Part 1: epidemiology, aetiology, and molecular pathology.” Clin Exp Dermatol. 2017;42(8):845-8.

Desai A, Ugorji R, et al. “Acral melanoma foot lesions. Part 2: Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management.” Clin Exp Dermatol. 2018;43(2):117-23.

Lambert Smith J, Wisell J, et al. “Advanced acral melanoma.” JAAD Case Rep. 2015;1(3):166-8.

Madankumar R, Gumaste PV, et al. “Acral melanocytic lesions in the United States: Prevalence, awareness, and dermoscopic patterns in skin-of-color and non-Hispanic white patients.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(4):724-30.

Merkel EA and Gerami P. “Malignant melanoma of sun-protected sites: a review of clinical, histological, and molecular features.” Lab Invest. 2017;97(6):630-5.

Persechino F, Longo C, et al. “Acral melanoma.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(2) suppl 1: S34–6.

Shin TM, Etzhorn JR, et al. “Clinical factors associated with subclinical spread of in situ melanoma.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(4):707-13.

Sondermann W, Zimmer L, et al. “Initial misdiagnosis of melanoma located on the foot is associated with poorer prognosis.” Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(29):e4332.

Washington CV, Mishra V, et al. “Melanomas.” In: Taylor SC, Kelly AP, et al. Taylor and Kelly’s Dermatology for Skin of Color (second edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2016:312-5.

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