protect your feet from skin cancerIf the Puget Sound area was a state it would rank 4thin the nation in skin cancer rates. For many of us living in Seattle this may sound counterintuitive. After all aren't we the rainy city and the cloud capital of the country?

Athough this is probably true, I think it's also the reason many of us don’t take proper precautions. We don't cover up or use sunscreen because we believe that we aren't really getting that much sun or that we need the Vitamin D. Also, when it's cloudy we forget that we’re still exposing ourselves to harmful UV rays.

Even though we may think these are all good reasons for exposing our toes, we still need to be careful when it comes to excessive exposure to the sun. When it comes to feet, melanoma is the most common skin cancer found there with a survival rate of just 52% in contrast to 85% for melanoma on other parts of the body. Melanoma also strikes people of any age, unlike other skin cancers.

Foot Cancer Can Be Harder to Detect

The higher death rate from foot melanoma is very likely due to later identification when skin cancer is more advanced. Cancer on the feet can be difficult to detect when it appears in between toes, under toenails, and on the bottom of the feet. That’s why it’s important to check all areas of your feet and let your Seattle podiatrist know if you notice any new or changing moles, freckles, or warts.

Who’s at Greater Risk for Skin Cancer in Seattle?

People with fair skin, those who got blistering sunburns before 18, and those with many moles, particularly at a young age.

Skin Changes to Look For

  • Asymmetrical in shape
  • Irregular borders
  • A mix of colors instead of just one color
  • Greater than 5mm in diameter

How to Protect  Your Feet From the Sun

Here are some tips to lower your risk for skin cancer.

  • Apply sunscreen on the top and soles of your feet. Safer sunscreen products can be found by checking out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens. This group is particularly conscious about sunscreens that provide the best protection but without harmful chemicals.
  • Wear water shoes or shoes and socks.
  • Become curious about your feet on a regular basis; when drying your feet be sure to check between your toes, underneath your nails, and use a mirror to look under your soles if you can’t reach that far.
  • Don’t forget to use sunscreen on your kids and check their feet as well; sun can do more damage to children.
Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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