How to check your nails for common skin cancer

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When checking the body for signs of skin cancer, many people may only think to check their skin.

However, board-certified dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say it’s important to check the nails, too.

Although rare, skin cancer, including melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — can develop under and around fingernails and toenails.

While anyone can develop melanoma on their nails, it’s more common in older individuals and people with skin of color. A personal or family history of melanoma or previous nail trauma may also be risk factors.

“The good news is that when found early, melanoma — even on the nails — is highly treatable,” says board-certified dermatologist Skylar Souyoul, MD, FAAD.

“The best way to find skin cancer on your nails early, when it’s most treatable, is to know what to look for and regularly check your nails.”

When checking your nails for melanoma, Dr. Souyoul says to look for the following changes:

A dark streak. This may look like a brown or black band in the nail — often on the thumb or big toe of your dominant hand or foot. However, this dark streak can show up on any nail.

Dark skin next to your nail. When the skin around your nail becomes darker, it could be a sign of advanced melanoma.

Nail lifting from your fingers or toes. When this happens, your nail starts to separate from the nail bed. The white free edge at the top of your nail will start to look longer as the nail lifts.

Nail splitting, which occurs when a nail splits down the middle.

A bump or nodule under your nails. You might also see a band of color on your nail. It could be wide and irregular or dark and narrow.

“Nail melanoma is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage than melanoma on the skin, making it more dangerous for your health,” says Dr. Souyoul.

“If you notice any changes to your nails, including a new dark band on your nail, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day.

In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the AAD is encouraging Americans to #PracticeSafeSun to protect themselves and their families from skin cancer.

The public can help raise awareness of skin cancer by using the hashtag #PracticeSafeSun when sharing AAD resources on skin cancer prevention and detection.

Additionally, individuals who have been affected by skin cancer can share their personal stories on to provide support and inspiration for others fighting skin cancer.

If you care about skin cancer, please read studies about antioxidant supplements linked to skin cancer and lung cancer growth and findings of this health condition could mean 600% higher risk of skin cancer.

For more information about skin cancer treatment and prevention, please see recent studies about why common blood pressure drug may raise skin cancer risk and results that 5 things you should know about skin cancer melanoma.

Source: American Academy of Dermatology