Beauty & Style
5 sneaky places you can get skin cancer (that aren’t on your skin)
Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early so make sure you’re checking these surprising spots and symptoms of skin cancer.
In the irises of your eyes
Just like you can get freckles in your eyes (it’s true!) you can also get other types of sun damage in your irises, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But isn’t skin cancer supposed to be, well, on skin? The truth is that any part of your body exposed to the sun is vulnerable and even though we may not think about it often, our eyes are one of the most exposed parts of our bodies. “Ninety percent of all skin cancers are due to sun damage,” says Bobby Awadalla, MD, a dermatologist and CEO of UVO. “And the more sun damage an area receives the more likely you are to develop a skin cancer in that location.” This is why you need to be vigilant about protecting your peepers. Since you can’t put sunscreen in your eyes (ouch!), make sure you wear UV-blocking sunglasses and get regular checkups with an eye doctor. And if you notice any strange new spots of colour in your irises or a change in their colour, make an appointment, stat.
Under your fingernails
With the popularity of gel manicures, fingers and toes are now in the hot seat – literally, thanks to the UV lights used to seal the gel coat. You hopefully already know how damaging tanning beds can be to your skin, says Stephen Stahr, MD, of The Dermatology Associates of San Antonio in Texas, and those quick-dry devices are basically mini tanning beds for your nails. While you can’t get skin cancer on your nails, the damage can penetrate through the nail to the skin underneath. To make sure you’re safe, he recommends putting sunscreen everywhere, including on the tips of your fingers and toes.
In your butt crack
One of the strangest places Dr. Stahr says he’s found skin cancer is inside a patient’s “gluteal cleft” – the butt crack. It turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that is generally not lethal, but is always caused by the sun. When he questioned the woman further he found that she favoured tanning in the nude and had always been very careful to make sure her cheeks were evenly browned. Thankfully she was cured with a quick surgery but Dr. Stahr says the moral of this story is to skip tanning – and make sure you’re checking your cracks and crevices for growths.
On your genitals
Both Drs. Awadalla and Stahr say they’ve had patients with genital melanomas and it is sadly not uncommon. The problem generally isn’t nude sunbathing. “Melanoma skin cancer, which usually develops at a site of chronic sun exposure can metastasise, or spread, to a site in the body which is far from its point of origin,” Dr. Stahr says. This is why you can find skin cancers on parts of the body that never see daylight. If you’re feeling shy, get over that quick. “One of my patients was very hesitant because she was embarrassed to show the doctor the growing pigmented lesion on her private areas but because she waited so long she ended up losing crucial parts of her anatomy,” he adds. So speak up.
Under your tongue
Ever wonder why your dentist lifts up your tongue and gives it a good look underneath and around the sides? One reason is that it is possible to get melanoma on your tongue. Even though you likely aren’t getting much sun exposure in your mouth, it is possible if the cancer has metastasised. And odds of getting any kind of cancer on your tongue or inside your mouth greatly increases if you smoke. So make sure you’re keeping up with your dental check-ups and ditch the cigarettes.
Written by Charlotte Hilton Andersen. Republished with permission of Wyza.com.au.