What to know about foot melanoma

Acral lentiginous melanoma. Image credit Will Blake, 2006.
Acral lentiginous melanoma. Image credit Will Blake, 2006.

Acral melanoma, often known as foot melanoma, is a kind of skin cancer that originates on the feet. It can appear anywhere on the foot, including under a nail and on the sole. It begins in the melanocyte, a kind of skin cell.

These cells can be found in the top layer of the skin. They’re in charge of making melanin, a dark pigment that protects the body from the detrimental effects of UV light.

Melanoma of the foot is generally curable in its early stages. However, because the symptoms may not be readily apparent, people will usually acquire a diagnosis in the latter stages.

It is possible to die if foot melanoma spreads, or metastasizes. Melanoma of the foot usually spreads to the lymph nodes first.

The numerous types of foot melanoma, how to spot early symptoms, and how to avoid and cure the condition are all discussed in this article.


  • Nodular melanoma. Image credit: Dermnet New Zealand.
  • Superficial spreading melanoma. Image credit: National Cancer Institute.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma. Image credit Will Blake, 2006.


Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, like melanoma in other parts of the body, is the most common cause of foot melanoma. Excessive sun exposure and tanning bed use as a teen or young adult increases your risk of melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. A melanoma can develop from a noncancerous mole exposed to too much UV light.

When you’re outside, use sunscreen and wear protective gear to help avoid melanoma. The feet, on the other hand, are frequently overlooked in this procedure and exposed to UV rays.


Melanoma appears on the skin as moles that change shape, size, and color over time. These moles also have asymmetrical sides and irregular borders. Melanomas are usually brown in color, but they can also be red, tan, or white. Moles that are blue or black are also possible. Melanomas, unlike other moles, are multicolored.

Melanoma can develop in your toenails as well. The big toes of your foot are the most commonly affected. Underneath the nails, malignant cells can appear as purple, brown, or black bruises. These can also appear as dark streaks in the nail that grow vertically. These streaks don’t go away if they’re melanoma, unlike nail damage where the nail ultimately grows out. You may also notice brittleness in your nails, as well as nails that crack easily. Learn more about skin cancer symptoms here.

Risk factors

Melanoma is more common in people who have certain risk factors, in addition to UV radiation exposure. These are some of them:

  • having preexisting moles on your feet
  • having at least 50 moles throughout your body
  • having a family history of melanoma or another type of skin cancer
  • having fair skin
  • being sensitive to the sun (you may find that you burn easily)
  • having a history of at least one severe sunburn before the age of 18


It’s time to contact a dermatologist if you see a strange spot on your foot. The mole will be examined first by this type of skin professional. They may be able to identify it’s malignant right away in some circumstances. The color, size, and shape of the mole will be noted by your dermatologist. They’ll inquire about the mole’s history and how it has evolved since you first spotted it.

A biopsy will aid in the accurate diagnosis of the location on your foot. This necessitates scraping a little portion of the mole and sending it to the lab for analysis.

Untreated melanoma

It is easier to treat foot melanoma when it is detected in its early stages. Melanoma is only found in the top layer of your skin in stage 0. (called the epidermis). The area is thicker and has possibly broken the skin in stages 1 and 2. The cancer hasn’t spread yet, though.

In the last stages of melanoma in the foot, complications can occur. Melanoma spreads to your lymph nodes or to another location on or near your foot in stage 3. Melanoma at stage 4 has spread to another portion of your body or an internal organ, making it the most dangerous form of the cancer. These are the two stages that are the most life-threatening.


Treatment choices for foot melanoma are determined on the stage of the disease and your overall health. Your doctor may simply remove out the mole and any skin immediately surrounding it if discovered early. Excision is the term for this procedure, which is done in your dermatologist’s office.

In advanced cases of foot melanoma, one or more of the following treatments may be required:

  • lymphadenectomy — a type of surgery that removes affected lymph nodes
  • radiation therapy — a treatment that uses radiation to shrink tumors
  • chemotherapy — a treatment that uses chemicals to kill the cancer cells in your body
  • immunotherapy — a type of treatment that stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells


Foot melanoma is more treatable if found early. Foot melanoma is generally not identified until it has progressed to an advanced stage, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Melanoma becomes more difficult to cure as a result, and it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

Foot melanoma has a greater rate of mortality as a result of these factors. It’s important to search your entire body, especially your feet, for unusual spots.


  • 10.1186/1757-1146-3-25
  • acfas.org/footankleinfo/Malignant_Melanoma.htm
  • aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/foot-melanoma
  • dermnetnz.org/topics/melanoma-of-nail-unit/