‘Tis the Season for… Sunburned Feet?

It’s pool and beach season and you can’t wait to get some sun and fun. You’ve got your flip flops and your sunscreen … but are you protecting those fabulous feet from skin cancer?

Skin cancer on the feet can occur anywhere — the tops of the feet, between the toes, under the nails, and on the soles.

Did you know that melanoma symptoms are often diagnosed by podiatrists? Members of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association (NYSPMA) were recently polled to find out if they’d ever found melanoma or skin cancer during a routine foot examination. Seventy-five percent said they had.

When melanoma is found on the foot, survival rates are lower because it often is not discovered until it has progressed. When not treated in the early stages, the fatality rate for melanoma is approximately 50 percent within five years of diagnosis.

When applying sunscreen, don’t neglect your feet and toes!

“Everyone can protect themselves by avoiding the sun, but if that doesn’t cut it on a beautiful day then apply a high level sunscreen to the feet and toes. Reapply sunscreen often as it wears away over the course of a couple of hours and washes away if you go swimming,” said Dr. Robin Ross, president, NYSPMA. “If you see any unusual marks or discoloration on your feet or toenails, see a podiatrist, the foot doctor specialist, who will be able to expertly assess the situation.”

Next: Signs of Melanoma & What if you don’t want to use sunscreen?

Signs of Melanoma
According to the NYSPMA, signs of malignant melanoma, one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer, include changes to moles such as itchiness and bleeding. Normal lesions are generally one color, with a distinct border, and about the size of a pea or smaller and do not dramatically grow in size. The A,B,Cs of possible melanoma lesions are:

A – Asymmetrical shape.

B – Bleeding or oozing.

C – Change in color.

D – Diameter of the lesion.  If it is large or getting larger.

E – Evolving. Changing in size, shape, border, color, itching.

F – Fingernail or toenail bruise that does not grow out with the nail.

Any of these signs are reason to seek medical help.

What if you don’t want to use sunscreen?
With many folks questioning the safety and risks of sunscreen, I turned to Dr. Ross for her opinion on the matter. “The benefits of using sunscreen, with the highest SPF rating, far outweigh the risks,” she said, offering these tips to those who do not want to use sunscreen:

  • If one is so determined not to use sunscreen, then try to stay out of the sun as much as possible — stay in the shade or cover exposed skin with clothing, a hat, or stay under an umbrella.
  • Make sure you moisturize daily, as dry skin tends to burn more easily.
  • Some new clothing has SPF built in, and you may want to wear them to avoid excessive sun exposure.

Source: New York State Podiatric Medical Association

Image Credit: istockphoto.com

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Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N.3 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H.3 years ago

I've always been a barefoot girl in spring and summer, this past summer, for the first time ever, I did get sunburn on my feet and still have a "tan line" from my flip flops. I must admit that over the years I've been pretty casual about making sure my feet were covered in sunscreen, but I will not make that mistake again. Climate change not real?? My burnt feet say otherwise.

Jae E.
Ja E.3 years ago

thank you

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing.

Regiskd R.
Regiskd R.4 years ago

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Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

Don't forget to protect your elbows!!

Nasrin T.
Nasrin Tajadod4 years ago

thank you for this article.

Kristin G.
Kristin G.4 years ago

I didn't know about under the toe nails!

Jaclyn Svarrer
Jaclyn Svarrer4 years ago

I, too, usually forget about my feet when it comes to SPF. Not good! Thanks for the reminder. I've seen a lotta bad sunburn on folks already, and we're hardly into June!